Words: Jeremy Dunn | Photography: J. Dunn | Date:
A few years back, when the Rapha Cycle Club was just a little pop-up shop on the Lower East Side of Manhattan we did an event in the space where we brought together some of the best mechanics in the city. There was a competitive aspect to this — to see who could build a complete bike the fastest. When the New York City Cycle Club opened in September we looked to do something similar to excite the crowds and once again bring together the finest mechanics in the city. The goal this time was to see who could wrap handlebars the quickest using the Caleido tape that we produced with Cinelli.
The first part of the challenge was to pull together an adequate system to display and compete. We called upon local Portland bicycle frame builder Oscar Camarena (the creator and designer of Arctos Jigs to see what sort of stand he could devise. He designed a welded-up three legged stand that could transport easily and accept a stem and top cap to hold the handlebars in place.
Then it was onto the judge. Who could possibly be the one to lay down the law on these competitors? Or at the very least, find the nuance between two almost identical wrap jobs? Well, Bill Strickland graciously accepted the job and then promptly put a veil of secrecy over any determining criteria. It seemed as though the only thing he would hold to any standard would be the mojitos in black cups before hand. But that was not to be the case. His choosing of the winner, if instinctual, was also controversial.
[Check out Bill’s write up on Bicycling – A Night at the Bar. ]
And of course, the competition was fierce. If you ever had a thought towards how quickly you could turn tape around a handlebar, reconsider before going head to head with this crew. The real challenge, as with any sort of competition wasn’t really the act of putting leather to metal, the real trick was maintaining poise under the lights and stares of party-goers. The final, between Sid’s Bikes Jose Medina (who won that first place mechanic’s competition years back) and Justin Bagnati from the Signature Cycles Connecticut location was something to behold. They both had their own styles and tools that they brought for the job – Justin impressing and surprising by making his Park Pin spanner do double duty – while Jose came equipped with scissors and finishing tape hanging from his belt.
When it came down to the final round it was apparent that, as Bill states, “these are two of the best mechanics in the country” and that whomever came out on top it was going to be a matter of whimsy more than anything else. Bill fretted, he looked closely, his brow furrowed and a stern look came over his face. Then he reached out and raised an arm in the air.