I realize bending your brain with such a philosophical query right out of the gate might be a bit much, but bear with me. It will soon make sense, or not.
Hello there. My name is Stevil. My family calls me Steve… Come to think of it, most folks call me Steve, though when I was in first grade, I wanted to be called Rocky. While some people attract nicknames, I never have. ‘Stevil’ was given to me by a woman named Sarah who I used to messenger with after I rode a recycling bin down a flight of stairs, launching onto the sidewalk, and scorpioning so hard I kicked the back of my own head.
So it was with this moniker, when in 2006 I launched the old Swobo ‘How To Avoid The Bummer Life’ weblog. Three years later I unveiled the All Hail The Black Market website and have been cooking with gas ever since. Somehow I’ve tricked the status quo into believing I’m some form of legitimate ‘media’, which leads me to believe that at least within the realm of the bicycle world, the bar for what is and what is not media is realfuckinglow.
Whatever. Since having invented this job for myself, I will occasionally be invited to a product launch here, or a team debut there- (for the sake of full disclosure, this is the only team debut I’ve ever been invited to, and I’ve not been invited to one since).
With all of that being said, I’ve come quite accustomed to people calling me a journalist or referring to my status as media while simultaneously utilizing air quotes. I bring this up, because it happened a number of times during the most recent running of Paul Camp, or Paulapalooza, or whatever the thing was called that Paul Component Engineering just hosted at their Chico, California headquarters.
With my air quotes proudly pinned onto my lapel, I will now describe what went down up there, over these last few days.
As ‘media’ I was offered a hotel room not far from the shop where all of the other media (non-air quote media types) were staying. My plan was to drive my own self up and sleep in my truck, or Paul’s house, or wherever I laid down so as to not impose upon the company’s generosity any more than I was about to. Right around the time I was set to leave, Robert from Blue Collar Bikes hit me up and told me to drive to Sacramento, ditch my truck at his house, and we’d head up together and sleep in his van;
So as to not break my recent stride of snuggling up with my dudes in the back of various forms of transport, (not to mention the fact that Robert and I have spent more time sleeping together in a van than anyone since Cheech and Chong) I naturally agreed, and before long we were on the road;
We arrived at HQ just in time to get changed and have ourselves a little shakedown mountain bike ride with the group.
Besides actual media, the other attendees who were present were builders from California and beyond, all of whom contributed one of their own machines, each spec’ed out with both Paul components, as well as an array of goodies from White Industries. In no particular order, we had bikes from Caletti, Hunter, Sycip, McGovern, Sklar, Oddity, Retrotec, Rex Cycles, Falconer, and of course, Blue Collar.
Because for the two days prior I had gotten so absolutely decimated while skateboarding, my first plan was to track down a PT for an adjustment, and let all those kooks go play bicycles. My second plan was to ride the full squish bike I’d brought along with me. My third plan was to ignore the pain, find a bike with a suspension fork, just suck it up, and go.
All of those plans got derailed upon crossing paths with Burnsey from Oddity when he pointed to a beautiful fully rigid titanium 29+ he’d built that was sitting to the side and said “nobody’s riding this one“.
Ok… My fourth plan was to ride until I didn’t want to or my hands were giving me too much grief, and part ways to head back to the shop. What ultimately happened is I split off from the main group and grinded up a long and rocky ascent to the ridge, where I took the opportunity to shoot a glam photo of the bike in question;
Upon first glance, I’d say that its slackness would translate into a twitchy ride, but in fact it was quite the opposite. Plus, sitting that far back allowed me to flick the front end around without any effort when finding myself on a less than ideal line, which was pretty much always. Lusting after a fully rigid bike hasn’t even been a wisp of a shadow of a vapor of a thought in my brain for fifteen years minimum, yet here we are.
Eventually I found an even rockier, and switchback-ie descent back down to the valley floor where I rejoined the rest of the group.
I don’t get it… My carcass has literally been thrown down the proverbial stairs the two days prior and I feel like a champ. Was it the energy in the air? Was it all the happy people riding bikes? Was it the bike itself? I dunno, but I wasn’t gonna question it.
Once safely tucked within the group, we made our way back to town to get cleaned up and eat a bite of food;
Now, so far you are probably saying to yourself, “what a total sausagefest” because besides Natsuko from Bicycle Quarterly, and Lindsay, and Briana pictured above, there wasn’t too much in the way of gender diversity. For what it’s worth, I rattled some cages about getting folks like Megan from Moth Attack, or Natalie from Sweetpea in the trenches next year to make the scales a little less bro heavy.
The many ears I pitched that into were receptive, so my fingers are crossed that for the third year we will see a bit more XX and a bit less XY, and for the record, if I have to give up my spot to help that occur, I’d be happy to do it.
With day one in the bag, Robert and I crawled into his fart box and slept the sleep of the marginally innocent;
The next day was the big ride, and since I’m never sure how my wrists are gonna feel these days, I offered myself another out just in case. Again, I had no major issues, and again, the day was jam packed with rad getting;
The plan for the evening was to sit a spell and then rejoin the group at the Sierra Nevada Brewery for a tour and dinner. Quick before we bailed however, I decided the light was right for a couple detail shots of the machine I’d been blessed to throw my stink all over;
Now check this out. S&S couplers? No sirs and maams;
And, if by chance, you wanna run it one speed, no need to fuss with an eccentric bottom bracket, or sliding dropouts. Just extend the chain stays for tension;
Burnsey is a mad scientist.
Among all the pretty blue Paul doodads was their stem cap light mount;
I’d made a couple of cracks the night before wondering which part of my body would eventually get impaled upon it. It turns out that as a result of a mistimed zig in a line up a rocky ascent and a slipped pedal, the part in question turned out to be my right ball. I think a light mount for a town bike isn’t a bad idea. Having something like this on a dirt bike on the other hand is a thing that neither me or my balls are fans of.
The time had come to head to the brewery where we organized our bikes for display;
After which time we were treated to a tasting. Had any of us eaten in hours, or weren’t completely dehydrated, we might have been a bit more able to emote our enthusiasm, but the lot of us were cracked;
But we dug deep and enjoyed the goodness, because beer.
Then we headed out for the tour, during which time we learned about all of the intricacies of their process. Going in I was a bit skeptical because that’s my nature, but upon the tour’s conclusion I have nothing but respect for their business practices, environmental efforts, commitment to the community, and also the fact that they have a little fuzzy buddy who runs the show in their gigantic organic garden;
During the tour, and because I’m a wise ass, I held my own dialog at the back of the group. Like for example when they showed us their huge composter that breaks down every ounce of food matter coming from the brewery’s restaurant, I discussed how long it would take to compost a body;
When our guide told us how many hundreds of thousands of barrels of beer they make a year, I then estimated what that meant in terms of hours worth of explosive diarrhea.
Our guide didn’t think I was as funny as I did, but then again, it might have just been my own delirium from spending the day riding a bike in the sun, and the resulting completely devastating sugar crash.
We finally took on a load of food, and talked about the day. Once I had my fill, I thanked our hosts, and ghosted so as to get horizontal and rest up for the final day of camp.
The last day included a shop tour, during which time I did donuts around the adjacent lot in Paul’s new dune buggy;
-and each of the builders, Alec from White Industries, and Paul himself talked a bit about their bikes, parts, company histories, and general ethos, while the rest of us ate food and enjoyed the shade;
One (among many) items that I found to be noteworthy was that White will soon be releasing their own line of headsets;
Because Alec hates taking off races as much as I do, he detailed how they’ve added a step cut on theirs, making it easier to remove. These are still in the testing phase but he said so far they’ve been exceeding all expectations, and should be available around the beginning of October.
I can’t remember for sure, but I think I gave him a high five for his efforts.
Finally, it came time for the bash to disband, and with heads and hearts topped off, after rounds of hugs and handshakes, we all jettisoned in our own different directions.
I have to thank both Paul the person as well as Paul the company for their generosity in including me, the builders for committing to their craft, and making such lovely bikes and parts, and the other actual non-air quote media for tolerating me.
To revisit today’s posts initial query- If a bunch of middle aged dudes fall down in the woods, and nobody’s there to hear it, do they make a sound?
Maybe no one will ever know.