There is a special balance in life between taking the win and giving gratitude. With each bike we've built so far at Moonmen, #M00 and #M01, it's felt like snapping the finish line tape and having a big golden trophy shoved into our hands. While the trophy hasn't come without a ton of hard work and intention we wouldn't be winning without the faith of our first customers. Francis, Samson, Danijel, Devon, Dejay, Charlie and Henry you have our gratitude. We couldn't have done this without your stoke and trust that Moonmen bikes are out of this world.
On a Thursday night, not long ago, we peeled out to explore a major ditch that we'd been storying about. It's tricky to speak too much to this ditch's exact location due to a couple reasons. One being a sense of ownership and two, a total lack of ownership. We don't want this spot blown up and we don't want it to blow up on us. The idea is larger than specifics anyway. The idea that adventure is alive and well, especially with the bike as a medium to experience. 'Twas a cold, winter night. Winter time is the right time to ride ditches, usually nice and dry. The ditch we were destined for that evening is a certain kind of ditch. Here in the Fort there is a major, inner city network of canals and ditches. This system existed long before the tract housing developments that cropped up around it. Here in the high desert water is especially precious. Water on the front range is guarded, celebrated, politicized and rationed. The canals and ditches get the water to where it needs to be. Though I wonder how useful the inner city system is now that Fort Collins is hardly agrarian, I'm sure there's more to it than I understand. The destination on this Thursday evening was out of town, maybe far from town, maybe near...This ditch is a gigantic, concrete ditch, made to move massive amounts of water, not to individual farm plots but municipalities. This ditch makes me 'member a time as a child I'd session a ditch on my skateboard. A half pipe is easy to relate. I've known the half pipe for so long. But before there was a back yard ramp there was the ditch. Either way you drop in on it. The transition, or banked wall is a means to move. I ride the trail differently having grown up in transitions, every contour can be enjoyed to move forward. This ditch drops in from on high. Real high. The perspective is awesome. Not like awesome, dude. But awesome. From the top of the drop in one can see the ditch snake north off into the distance, in service to some far away place. The perspective let's one know what's in store. The banked concrete walls are impressive but only half of the experience. The other half is where the ditch takes you. The walls can be pumped and charged on a bike. Though the ditch isn't friendly to skateboard wheels. The surface is 20 grit, it'll make haste with your epidermis. As you cruise the big white ditch the moon glows the surface and then, BOOM!
It drops into a 30˚ descent into a giant hole. This hole is technically a pipe. A hole is more illustrative because the pipe descends into darkness. It seems counter intuitive to drop in to such a void but there is a fine line between adventure and danger. The pipe takes us deep into the earth to some unforeseen end, maybe China.
Then the route levels for a short length. Then suddenly the practical purpose of this riding phenomenon declares itself. A pool of frozen water at the pipe's elbow. The pool has frozen it it a large elk carcass. Half decayed. Rack jutting out of the ice. The need to get away from such a thing sent me fast into an equally severe grade. Up the pipe and out into the night air, the antithesis to claustrophobia. But that was too fun. So we gotta give it another go having our new understanding that what goes in must come out. Brett, however, the wiser decided not to test the odds and said once was enough. Todd drops in and reaches the other side unscathed. Pauly drops in and disappears into the darkness. But then a loud yell and the sound of titanium hitting concrete. Pauly went down, into the fetid waters of the submerged, dead elk. The stink was frozen underwater but Pauly broke the seal. He took a dip but was relatively unhurt. So I gotta go. Dropping in I knew that I just need to go high on the pipe wall to dodge disaster. The pipe walls were wet with the rotting splash. And so goes my wheel, washed out right into the gnarly water. I was soaked and my body stung from hitting the concrete but I moved like mad, snatching my bike away form the carcass. It was all very blurry and fast but I had to get out of that pipe and away from the Elk as soon as possible. As if the Elk's spirit was going to have it's way with me. I came out of the tunnel, a metaphor for birth, having cheated death.
There's an idea, then there's sketches and there's refinement and more drawings. Then a CAD, like the above, truly reflects the reality of how the bike will manifest. Head tube angles, seat and chain stay lengths, bottom bracket height, and on and on. It's all about the details. Everything down to the bar end plugs are considered. By complementing form with function (and visa versa) we wager your Moonmen will be an integral part of your stable for years to come. We aren't interested in building bicycles that are a flash in the pan but more so creating timeless machines that not only maintain their value but increase in value. Our choice material, titanium, speaks to this timelessness. The ride quality of titanium is absolutely unique. Though I'd like to speak to tensile strength and ductility of titanium I'll keep that conversation to myself. There's always the internet if you'd like to satiate the want for technical knowledge. I'd rather speak to the how a titanium frame wraps a switch back, bounds over a rocky fall line and climbs in the saddle. Titanium is an incredibly resilient material. Often I have the quick moment of panic when I'm flying in a jet, 30,000' above the ground, and I think WTF, how is this happening? A major part of what makes it possible is titanium. Lots of ti bits make up those air planes. In addition to the extra ordinary ride quality the durability is like no other. No rust...ever (well maybe it will rust under your great, great, great, great, great grand child). We encourage you to maximize the amount of titanium you have on your bike. A Moonmen rides best with a titanium seat post, handle bar and stem. The more ti the better.
As you can see, Moonmen One is very close. Stay tuned.
We left in a snow storm. Knowing what was coming we had to face it down. Or at least Todd had to face it down as he piloted his sweet Mother's super hot Subaru down I-25, headlong into the blizzard. Pauly and I tried to keep morale high as we nodded in and out of sleep. Finally we punched through Snowmaggedon south of Pueblo and safely across the border. Through the night we drove, in search of the desert sun. 13 (or something like that) hours later we rolled into beautiful Tucson. Never having been to Tucson I took in the cinder block houses with dirty front yards, abundant Mexican restaurants, and, come to find out, ripping single track. First stop was Dejay's house. Dejay was the host of the event, as he has been for the past 7 years. Something of an icon in this single speed community, Dejay welcomed us with open arms and stocked coolers. As we mingled and caught up folks started to show up at the house from all over the country. Hugs and high fives were exchanged as many hadn't seen each other since the last dirt bag event.
It's important to note that dirt bag is a relative term. There are IT dirt bags, doctor dirt bags, professional ski instructor dirt bags, school teacher dirt bags, server dirt bags, architect dirt bags and, of course, dirt bag dirt bags. Never though did we discuss medical procedures, curriculums, IP addresses, or soffits, etc., but mostly conversations about and for the love of the bike. The simplest of bicycles, the single speed.
A big ride in the desert was planned for the next day but talk about bikes usually leads to riding them, so our small group loaded up for a dusk ride on Starr Pass. We watched the desert sun set (which is like no other). After the ride a meet up at The Irish Pub for packet pick up and some karaoke produced fireballs and an intoxicated skinny kid, apparently a contendor, from Phoenix.
Rise and shine to an overcast chilly race day. A Uhaul was loaded with bicycles and racers were shoehorned into a bus. The start line was a drive away up Mount Lemon. Come to find out the start line was a pull off on the way up the mountain pass. Unexpected. Dejay took his podium and proceeded to punish those who chose their beds over the pub the previous evening with mandatory push ups. Then after some words of encouragement and inspiration Dejay, somewhat unceremoniously, started the race. We all threw on our front wheels and climbed up the road to begin, what I think was, our 45 mile journey for the day. A few miles up the road we pulled onto some single track that quickly changed into a bunch of hike a bike. The trail, Bug, then had us heading down hill in a hurry. That's when the smiles turned up and really didn't leave faces, if maybe from exhaustion, until the finish line. I heart La Milagrosa, I'll never forget you. Until we meet again.
Saguaro forests are amazing. I'd never ridden terrain like this before. Here at home you can lose your line and fall off trail with little to no consequence. Not so much in Tucson. Off trail aims to hurt you. At certain points in the race, mostly foggy and depleted in the middle section, I felt like I was in opposition to that which was off trail. Cactus were aiming to hurt me and I did everything I could to not let that happen. Bless Todd and Pauly's hearts for putting the fear in me with their commitment to race jeans (coming soon - Moonmen Action Jeans®).
I fell into the finish line, which doubled as our campsite, 4 hours and 17 minutes later. Stacks of pizzas and cold beer were ready at the site and they tasted the very best. Kurt Refsnider won the whole thing in something ridiculous like 2.5 hours. And I'm pretty sure his partner Kaitlyn was the first lady across the line. But I'm not really sure about either of the above facts so don't tell me otherwise, this is my story. Partying commenced as folks trailed in well after dark. DFL goes to Back of the Pack Racing's, Jolly. I don't recall going to sleep that night but it was a celebration to end all.
After breaking camp the next day we all headed back over to Dejay's for some bike polo. Robin, your enthusiasm for bike polo blows me away, especially after crushing the course like you did. Super Bowl parties were planned and our crew is somewhat apathetic about such things so we hugged it up and split for the snowy North. We pulled away from Tucson in a blissful state.
Foremost I want to thank Dejay. This event was his baby and he a proud, supportive father. We are stoked to have you in the Fort, Dejay. Randy, thank you for hosting all of us at your home, the locale couldn't have been any more ideal. Thanks, Sam, your energy is rad and your tolerance for whiskey is admirable. Sugar, the captain, it was great to ride with you and check out your wearable art. Wasatch Wookie forever.
Donna, thanks for getting us home safely on Friday night. Hunter, you're faded. Dax, you destroyed despite getting lost. Shanna, you're rad and I'm stoked to have met you. Sean, you're a boy scout and a true creative. Thad, you're filthy and from Kansas City (what a stereotype). Jake, you own the coolest bong in the land and your hair is spectacular. Nate, you are the dirtiest of dirt bags, nice to have met you. Bus Driver, thank you for getting us safely home Saturday night and for your reckless abandon. Kaolin, thanks for facilitating the comfort, I'm looking forward to what you do next year. Finally, thanks Todd and Pauly for being. And then there's the rest of you, way to go.
Here it comes! In less than two weeks we're heading south for the glorious desert and Single Speed Arizona. I hear Dejay puts on a real, real nice race that's a lot like a party. Everyone wins at a party. We'll have these great shirts with saguaros and ponies printed on them for sale.
We know how we want it to ride. We know how we want it to look. At Moonmen neither function or form precede one another. These two design objectives are equal and complimentary. Having balance is everything. Most meta, man.
So it begins, the execution of thoughts and ideas manifest in a well tuned machine that feels, and looks awesome. Over the course of our lives we have ridden all kinds of bikes. For me, like many, BMX is where it started. Funny, I don't remember ever lusting after one but I've always admired the split, gusseted top tubes, point bent chain stays and plate drops of the Torker. That's an idea! Water jet ti plate, Paragon's beautiful thru-axle drops, elegant bends, oversized head tube, a Lupin Fork, and a custom (TBD) media etch should say everything but chunky, clunky, 80's BMX bike. You know I love you, Torker®.
We are currently taking deposits for our first 10 bike builds to be delivered just before the Single Speed Worlds in July. Please reach out to us if you'd like more information. And blog along with us as we ideate and build Moonmen One.
This past year, while traveling around Europe for the Single Speed World Championships in Italy, Todd managed to stack pretty hard, breaking his fork. There for a couple months Todd was sans fat bike which forced some 36er sessions. Not such a bad thing but then the snow started to fall… After years of unicrown iterations Todd has been working toward this latest idea. Introducing the Moonmen Lupin Fork. It's built with 1 1/8" fork blades, tapered steerer, Paragon thru-axle drops and spacing for a 100mm front hub. Mind you Moonmen is a custom builder so though Todd's fork came together as such we can create whatever you like.
Paul, Todd and I are building the Moonmen foundation. Pouring the concrete. Cutting the trail. Our business meetings always include a ride. Riding is a Moonmen core value, we gotta ride. To keep you folks interested we know we have to keep the content fresh on the dub, dub, dub so we travel with a camera. Our intention this past Thursday was to grab some portraits of ourselves for the site so you know that robots aren't building your bikes. Though, BTW, we do strive for full robot automation by 2025, so we have more time to ride. Fort Collins is home to Colorado State University which is my alma mater. Go Rams! My school spirit is thin at best but I do have a bucket list item to attend a CSU sporting event before I die. But I digress. Our thought was to get some photos next to some of the sweet architecture the university has to offer. CSU is mostly locked up right now due to the winter break so after considering breaking an entering and/ or climbing up buildings, Pauly captured some sweet, shots outside of the under-construction, Lory Student Center.
Our time spent riding doesn't have a lot to do with mileage goals or target heart rates, (though if that's your thing, I get it) but more about wandering. We're always feeling out the landscape for what's inspirational. Both following and leading, chatting or nose down, grinding it out, these ideas are meta for Moonmen.
We peeled off from campus and headed to the Poudre River Social Trails. These trails are comprised of meandering single track built of years of randomness and erosion. The river flooded like crazy this fall so much of the trail is now gone or covered in dead fall. There's a ton of potential but there's only so much time to get after it by the light of the moon with come alongs and folding saws. Regardless it's always fun to suss out the ever-changing landscape. West of the North Shields Natural area a major flood mitigation project is underway. The elevation is desolate from machines having scraped and moved the earth. We came up on this lone tree. Pauly set up for some timed exposures. The shots are nice and eerie.
We've got some great things on the way. Stay tuned. 2014 is going to be big!
It was a pleasure and a privilege to roll with Sean Burns and his pal, Thad from KC. Sean and his family relocated earlier this year from KC to Estes, just in time for a 100 year flood which isolated Estes from the rest of the world for awhile there. Sean is settled in, the road up Big Thompson Canyon is rebuilt and he's tooling up his shop to start building his brand of bicycles, Oddity. Pretty stoked for him and this new endeavor. Paul, Todd and I took these two FC, single track newbies around Dixon, up Maxwell for the big payoff view of Horsetooth Reservoir. Though visibility was scant with some nice low lying, snow heavy clouds hanging over the Res.
It was rad to get the current on the KC MTB scene from these two. It happens every time but I'm continually blown away to hear that folks be riding and cultivating their bike culture all over the land, just like us.
Moonmen is building. Stay tuned, all 2 of you, for the grand launch of moonmenbikes.com. Thus far we've been having a soft opening.
It all began some years ago. As an art school student at Colorado State University I suplemented my student loan checks by selling bikes at Lee’s Cyclery. My buddy and bike shop colleague, Sugar, mentioned that a fella he knows was building bikes and could use some help with marketing and what not. As an aspiring commercial artist and cycling aficionado it was a perfect convergence of passions. I reached out to this bike builder, James Bleakley, and he told me all about his brand, Black Sheep Bikes. Graphics and websites were made and traded for sweet titanium bicycles. As the Black Sheep brand became more established James brought on an apprentice, not even out of high school, Todd Heath. Together Todd and James evolved the Black Sheep aesthetic. It’s important to note the sundry folks who imparted themselves on to the brand through the years such as Jason Shelman, Jason Trujillo, Chris Sulfrain, and Black Sheep’s current master of finish, Paul Knowles. The Black Sheep story is punctuated by NAHBS gold medals, being a part of the permanent collection at the University of Iowa’s Museum of Art, annual representation at the Single Speed World Championships and constant trail ripping in the name of evolution and joy. Black Sheep is craftsmanship, evolution and progression perpetuated with stoke.
The Black Sheep story continues. And now for a new story.
This new story begins under the moon. Over the last couple years I’ve hosted a group ride out of my garage aptly called Thursday Night Lights. It goes like this…
Kids go off to bed. Hang in the garage as riders show up over beers, herb, music, wrenches and tire kicking. "Ride leaves at 8:30", though we roll out on to the street around 9. In Fort Collins we’re fortunate with a myriad of choices and directions to go. Trails and more trails. There’s single track around the Reservoir and up to a rock of the same name. Chasing a lightening storm at midnight up the Blue Sky valley into Lory is extra ordinary. And a descent of MeeShow at 3am stinking of rotting elk carcass inspires haste to get home. The lesser-traveled trails actually aren't meant for bikes at all but built to move water. The canals always dry out and lend a perspective by bike of the city that leaves one lost, or at least disoriented. Then there's an enormous hole in the ground, a tube built to push water though with mad, pent-up energy. It’s a concrete pipe with 360˚ of transition to surf…on a bike. While the water is away it's best to take its place. But when the water is raging, portage is all right too. It's best ridden yet the bike can be pushed, thrown off the edge of a cliff, used as crutch to cross Gordon Creek, scooted up a trail that suddenly disappears up a steep wash. It's all about the adventure of getting lost in our backyard.
Sometimes the TNL consists of a few other riders. Consistently though it’s we three; Paul, Todd and myself. With the three of us I’m confident that an adventure is always afoot. Our bond over bikes under the moonlight inspires our next adventure,
Coming in 2014