“Oh man, what was I thinking? Nobody is going to think this is a good idea?”
This is what I was thinking a few days after I announced my Garage Bike Project. Sure I had some people donating some components, but, would anyone actually want to donate a frame?
In a nutshell, my goal for the Garage Bike Project was to see if I could assemble a complete bike made out of parts that I could find in the garages and basements of the bike enthusiasts that lived around me. I want to see if I can do it without spending any money – relying on the goodwill of the community around me to realize my vision.
I collected a few of the things that were initially offered to me, but held off on actively gathering everything because I was worried I wouldn’t have a frame to put them on.
The project was announced on November 6 and nearly a month later there was a big breakthrough.
Can A Bike Have Heart and Soul?
Richard Lewis, of Chillicothe, Ohio, offered up a frame that he had been using for years as a commuter bike. He was switching jobs and was no longer going to be commuting to work on two wheels. He figured the frame would be better off getting used in Columbus, rather than growing old in his basement.
But this wasn’t just any frame, this frame happened to meet all the specs of my dream scenario. I was trying to create a “road version” of my mountain bike with a 1X set-up and disc brakes. Richard had purchased the bike in 1998 and had welded a disc brake mount to the seat stay. He also donated a Bontrager cyclocross fork with a disk brake mount. I was going to be able to set this bike up almost exactly how I drew it out in my original diagram.
Because the frame was 16 years old, some of the standards in the bike industry have changed, so Richard also donated the seat post, cranks and chain ring that fit the frame as well.
Basically, I may be the founder of the Garage Bike Project, but Richard Lewis is the heart and soul. None of this would be possible without him.
On December 2nd, I drove to Chillicothe with a 6-pack to say thanks in the passenger seat. We chilled in his basement workshop for a while and it was fun to see his bikes and hear about his racing and riding.
The Seed Was Planted
While Richard had provided the big breakthrough, it was Chris Emberton who provided the seed for the idea. One random day last fall, before the Garage Bike was even a thing, Chris sent me a message though Facebook. He offered up a pair of lightly used Ergon grips because he noticed through Quickdirt that the grips on my mountain bike were torn and close to death. How awesome was that? We met up at the skills park at Alum Creek and talked for a while as my children road around and played. He said that he had taken the grips off of another bike that he bought and didn’t have any plans to use them. He just wanted them to go to a good home.
That was the moment I started thinking, “How many parts are lying around in the garages of Ohio?” After a decade of riding, I had amassed quite a collection myself – parts that were perfectly good, but that I had no plans of using. How could we take all these random unused components and create something greater than the sum of the parts?
Two Wheels Are Better Than None
Another key moment occurred when I found out that I won a free wheelset for having the best attendance at the OMBC races – 25 straight events with no DNFs. This pair of Velocity Blunt SLs I won was sweet. I wanted to put them on my road bike, but that wasn’t going to work for several reasons. I considered putting them on my mountain bike as well. But, what I really wanted to do was build a new bike from scratch. I started drawing up the bike that I wanted, a road-version of my mountain bike. This bike had been floating in my brain and evolving for years as I daydreamed on my rides.
I researched frames and pondered components, but there was a big problem – I didn’t feel comfortable spending the money at this point. The previous winter I had purchased a CycleOps stationary bike with a power meter and a treadmill – two serious fitness investments. As a stay-at-home dad, that had definitely pushed me over budget and I was trying not to repeat that spending pattern this winter.
So the Velocity wheel set, Chris’s generosity, my vision for a bike that I really wanted to ride and my budget constraints combined together to inspire the Garage Bike Project – my attempt to make something out of nothing and bring a community of cyclists together to make something cool.
Immediately after posting my original drawing for the bike, people began to come out of the woodwork with parts that they had been storing for years, but had no plans for. All I had to do was come pick them up. It was exciting to think that the community would rally around this little project.
Not Just Good, But Great
Cory Knight provided some of the initial parts when he came over for wings and beer one night. He donated a Smanie saddle and Thompson stem. Both of these components were in mint condition – way nicer than anything I had envisioned when I was drafting the project.
But, Ben Michels took the entire project to the next level when he offered to paint the frame for me. I had been planning on painting the frame, but had absolutely no experience and wasn’t sure where I would get the supplies. I was just looking for a can of spray paint, but he provided way more than that, he had some expertise. He owns a painting business, Precise Touch Painting, which specializes in house painting and had a shop where he could paint the bike with professional equipment. This was his first time painting a bike frame and he seemed to relish the challenge. He stripped the old paint off, primed the frame, painted a silver base coat, then used 4 “candy” coats of orange. Needless to say, this 16-year-old frame now sparkles like new.
I was awestruck by the results.
I’ve assembled what I have so far and I can’t believe how this is turning out. It has greatly exceeded my expectations. Thanks, thanks, thanks to everyone who has helped so far. There is still more to do and I’m hoping that I can find a few more cyclists in the community to help out. When I have the bike complete, I plan to ride across the entire state of Ohio from Cleveland to Cincinnati to celebrate. Who wants to go with me? We might even stop at a brewery or three to add to the fun factor.
Now that I have the frame I will be following up with some of the folks that offered parts and labor to the project. Let me know if you have any ideas to take this project to the next level. There will be more updates and articles about this bike, so make sure you subscribe to Quickdirt or follow along on Facebook. Please pass this article on to anyone with a passion for bikes and a garage full of used parts that they don’t need. 🙂
Check out what I still need. Do you have any of these components?
What I Already Have:
- Velocity Blunt SL Wheelset – Courtesy of the OMBC and Velocity
- Ergon Grips – Thanks to Chris Emberton
- Frame – with disc brake mounts – Courtesy of Richard Lewis
- Fork – Bontrager Cyclocross with disc brake mounts – Courtesy of Richard Lewis
- Headset – Cane Creek S2 – Courtesy of Richard Lewis
- Cranks – Courtesy of Richard Lewis
- Bottom Bracket – Courtesy of Richard Lewis
- Seat Post – Courtesy of Richard Lewis
- Thompson Elite X4 Stem – Courtesy of Cory Knight
- Saddle – Smanie MK Pro X – Courtesy of Cory Knight and Mitch Gay
- Killer super-slick candy orange paint job courtesy of Ben Michels
- 28mm Continental road tires from my garage
- Water bottles – got tons of water bottles. Anybody need an extra water bottle?
What I Need – (remember, I can be flexible):
- Rear derailleur
- Chain Guide for front chain ring (Not sure if I need this, Richard said he ran the bike in a 1X set-up without a chain guide for years)
- Brakes – AVID BB7 mechanical disc brakes or similar
- Brake Levers
- Gear Shifter – rear only.
- Cable guide
- derailleur cable
- 2 x brake cables
- 4′ derailleur housing
- 4′ brake housing
- flat pedals or Crank Brothers Egg Beaters
- seat clamp bolt
- tubes (I had these and they both mysteriously deflated. Not sure if sitting in my garage for 7 years had caused them to deteriorate)
- Rubber washers to protect the sweet paint job.
- Quickdirt decals