Today's installment checks in from Stumptown (Portland, Oregon), land of coffee beans and bikes. And when it comes to cycles most talk turns to Sacha White of Vanilla Bicycles.
Spreading faster than a fire through old growth PNW forest, White has stood the custom cycle world on its ear. Sacha blends function with jewel-like ornate detail, eye candy with time-tested practicality. They say God is in the details... one then could only presume God would more than likely ride a Vanilla. Sacha White in his own words...
1. How old are you?
2. Where were you born?
I was born in Longmont, Colorado (outside of Boulder)
3. What's your earliest memory of a bicycle or something bicycle related?
Crashes! I remember it was a Sunday and my family had friends over for brunch. My dad decided to teach me to ride. He started me on a down hill, and I kept crashing into the same pile of branches. I ran home so pissed. I also remember riding home from swim team practice on my new bike with hand brakes. I was going fast down hill and pulled the front brake instead of the rear, was catapulted and slid on my chest. There was tons of blood. Another time I was riding with my brother. He was pulling wheelies and his front wheel dropped out and...
4. What was your first cycle?
A small red Schwinn cruiser.
5. How about first "high-end" cycle?
Well I had a Schwinn Le Tour or something which was not high end, but my dad had a Record equipped Paramount from the sixties in the shed. One by one I took every part off of the Paramount and had the LBS install it on my Le Tour (I'm sitting here shaking my head and laughing right now)
6. Did (does) your family (parents, siblings, etc) ride also?
My dad rides a couple hundred miles a week. My brother rides some. My mom would ride to the farmers market and to dance class if I built a bike for her.
7. Did you like to tinker with bikes back then?
Yes, and I liked to hang around the bike shop. I loved the smell of Tri Flow and inner tubes and I still do.
8. Did you ever work in a Bike Shop... if so, where/how long?
Not really. I helped out at friend's shop, but never for money.
9. Have you ever done any organized racing?
Yes. I did some road racing when I was younger (like nine) then more road racing in the past eight years and lots of 'Cross.
10. How about cyclo-touring?
11. What job(s) did you have before frame building and also-do you have any other job currently besides frame building?
I build full time. Before that I was a messenger for four years. Before that I was a baker, Barista and cook.
12. When did you start building?
13. Who would you say is your greatest influence in designing & frame building?
Hmmm... From a design aspect, I don't know. From a craft aspect, I am influenced by the standard for "great" that some builders have set. Mark Dinucci is one. He was building in the Northwest in the 70's. I have seen a few of his frames and one without paint. Every last detail was super tight. I would say perfect. Tom Kellogg and J P Weigle come to mind and some of the Japanese builders too when I think of setting a standard for me to aspire to.
14. Did you apprentice... if so, with who?
I did not apprentice, but I did build my first frame with Tim Paterek. It was a great starting point.
15. What's your idea of the "perfect cycle" regardless if you built it or not?
I think single speed cross bike (maybe with couplers). Simple, efficient, durable, goes anywhere...
16. Shooting a guess... how many frames would you say you've built?
17. Any cycles out there that you secretly wished, "Darn, I wish I'd built that!"?
Not that I wish I had built it, but Weigle's stuff has made my jaw drop. Dinucci too.
18. Your idea of the perfect client?
My perfect customer is someone who knows what they like, will talk to me about it and then cut me loose. I really love building for real people too. People who are going to ride and love the hell out of their bike. The working class of bike riders. It is special to me when a customer is having me build a sort of companion for them. That makes me want to build a bike with my heart and soul.
19. What defines a nightmare client in your experience?
Errr... I don't think I want to go there :)
20. Any words of advice to up & coming frame builders?
Make sure your tubes, etc are super clean. Get a good preheat. There is a lot of hard (detailed) work involved, but it is very satisfying.
21. What do you find most funny or peculiar (in a kind way-not brutal) about the cycle-buying public... what don't they get or aren't they seeing?
22. What do you think of mass-produced bikes (without naming names)?
I think the bar has been set pretty low.
23. What cycle don't you have anymore that you wished you did?
I wish I had my dad's old Record equipped Paramount that I stole the parts from.
24. What cycle do you currently ride most, even if it wasn't built by you?
I ride my one speed cross bike that I built with Tim Paterek. My first bike.
25. When did you last ride your bike and for how far?
This morning about 5 miles.
26. What's your idea of the perfect ride?
Soft dirt trails on a road, cross or mountainbike. Good climbs when I'm in shape. I really like city riding too.
27. Could you ever see yourself being Car Free... just using mass-transportation and your bike to get around?
My family has been car free since August of 04. My shop is a mile away from home and my daughter's school is right there too. Our lifestyle is set up so everything is within a couple of miles. It was intimidating at first but it is cake now.
28. Why do you think so many folks have romanticized bicycles & bicycling?
I don't feel like I do, so I guess I don't know.
29. Any (other) passions or hobbies in your life?
When I quit messengering and started building fulltime (about four years ago) I was excited about finding another hobby, because building bikes was officially my occupation. That hasn't happened though. Bikes are still my passion. I can see getting into wood working. I would like to build a wooden boat.
30. If you could say one thing to Lance Armstrong what would it be?
Richard isn't buying it ;)
31. In a pinch... McDonalds or Burger King?
32. What kind of shampoo did you last use?
33. Favorite libation: wine, beer or fire water?
Good coffee first and foremost! I also like Belgian Trappist-style Ales, and Stouts and Porters. Even PBR sometimes. It is down right refreshing.
34. Even though there seems to be a real tradition to it-what do you think of folks who spend more time setting up their cycle with just the right color saddle, bar tape, bags, hoods, etc than actually riding or at least commenting on the ride?
I used to messenger on a 9 speed Dura Ace-equipped road bike. My justification was essentially "ride what you will enjoy riding" as fancy or as crappy as it is. I think the ultimate tragedy is a fantastic bike that doesn't get used.
35. Did you go to college... if so, what was your major?
No I didn't, but I can see myself in school for industrial design some day.
36. Your favorite music while working (if any)?
Oh, I have been listening to Journey's greatest hits, some other 80's music, good hip hop, Gypsy Kings, Elvis Costello, Modest Mouse...
37. If you had it to do all over again... would you be building cycles?
Yes, if everything fell into place again.
38. What's your favorite lunch food during a work day in the shop?
Burritos and espresso.
39. When it's all said & done-what kind of legacy will you hope to have left behind?
I want for someone 40 years from now to see a Vanilla when all of the paint has fallen off, and to say "Oh my god that is TIGHT!" or whatever the kids are saying in forty years.
40. How can folks get in touch with you to order a custom cycle?