Knockin’ on the Golden Door: SimWorks Trip to the Bay Area
Text: Steven / Photo: Steven and Rie
SimWorks USA made the recent jaunt south to the Bay Area, CA again this year to show off some new products and participate in Chris King’s Guest House event– a pilgrimage to that part of the world we’re hoping continues to be an annual tradition. It’s an outstanding showcase of builders, brands and makers that orbit in the greater CK constellation. The timing on the event feels like a bit of a refresh for the new year and busy season in the industry and a great lead-in to the Sea Otter classic behemoth of a bike show that goes on just down the road in Monterey later that same week. That drive down I-5 each early spring feels like a kickoff for our busier season, and typically a welcome opportunity to dodge some unsavory weather in the PNW and go revel in some sun and fun with close friends and colleagues. This year we were fortunate to be able to step-out and structure the calendar during that week to participate in both the King Guest House event, a great day of MTBing and checking in on the state of the world with builders and friends, followed up with a casual day of walking the show at Sea Otter, and finally a culminating pop-up event at Box Dog Bikes- one of our oldest dealers in San Francisco as we made our way back north to Portland.
Our attendance at Guest House this year had us releasing some great new products including our Taco pedals that we just kicked off a presale on last week, as well as our new rear carrier- the Burrito rack, and it’s lovable sidekick- the Extra Rice and Beans bag. Also offering a peak at a refreshed paint scheme and “rebrand” on our Doppo MTB which we’re now calling the ‘Locust’ – dressed in King’s hypnotic 3D Violet bearing kit, the event felt like a splendid showcase of freshly minted SimWorks products. But more than the pat on the back we might like to give ourselves for showing up and having the public respond positively to new products, it’s the sense of community that comes along with participating in events that feel a bit more tailored and curated that ends up making our efforts feel worthwhile. It’s one thing to make a great new product and to have it sell well, but if you can show up and have the people who inspire you compliment your efforts- that’s the richer payoff of a job well done.
We had a ton of really great response to the new “Cosmic Lavender” finish on the Doppo ‘Locust’- which paired beautifully with King’s 3D Violet parts. That color really comes alive out in some direct sun and would look great with more widely available Silver or Black parts as well. Locust is the most modern trail-ready bike within the Doppo lineup of frames that we produce, and while we set this rig up with a rigid front end- it’s the only Doppo that will play nice with a suspension fork- should your preferences steer you in that direction. We’re finalizing a production batch of these frames in Japan, and hope to have them available for sale in limited quantities in the next couple of months.
We got a handful of our new Taco pedals in to the hands of some great builders at the Guest House event. Awesome to see these set up on some stunning bikes- including ‘Black Cat’ Todd’s ‘Hocus Pocus’ steel full-suspension bike that had the internet and all of our heart’s abuzz that day.
What wound up being almost a 12 hour sun-soaked and gusty-wind plagued day of standing on asphalt cajoling with the masses takes it toll, so the more relaxing payoff of riding MTBs with friends and builders the following day in the Santa Cruz mountains was a welcome change of pace and a great way to blow off some steam and put our post-winter fitness levels on stark display. While a large group of riders like the one that assembled inevitably has a range of rider abilities and ambitions for our rides, we always seem to find a great mix of some cruiser and more challenging terrain to navigate and everyone comes away from the outing with a smile and a well earned hankering for tacos.
The mellow day in Santa Cruz also afforded the SimWorks crew the opportunity to drop by our old friend Garrett’s shop, where he operates his business, ‘Strawfoot‘. Garrett’s been a bud of SimWorks since early days and his history with a lot of the NorCal frame builder brethren goes back decades. We were super fortunate to get to work with him years ago when he crafted a really lovely canvas collaborative collection of pieces for SimWorks to sell. There were still a few of those remaining pieces kicking around that I had the pleasure of handling myself when I first started working with SimWorks in 2019. I even managed to squirrel a couple pieces away for myself that I’m smitten with. Garrett’s business has transitioned in the past handful of years to creating both custom and off the shelf window coverings and other cut and sewn pieces for the booming #vanlife scene. But his love for bikes and the folks in that world still shines through and there’s certainly a healthy crossover in the two industries.
You can draw a straight line between the work that we get to do and the relationships that have been built and solidified over the past 10+ years that SimWorks has been gaining steam. And some of that work extends back longer than that to the early days of Circles and their mission to import the products, culture and ideals of the American handbuilt cycling world to a growing and enthusiastic market in Japan that no one at the time probably even fully understood the size and potential of. That ground work was laid across borders and time zones and language and cultural barriers that have all been blurred and deconstructed through vision, intention, and a common love of bikes and the people in our world that make it feel special, sustainable and everlasting. Ultimately it’s the people in our world that give our lives their shapes, colors and textures. The “products” are an honest expression of people that want to see those objects exist in the world. But it’s the love for raw materials and the process of innovating, and crafting and improving that sets the makers apart from most of the larger outfits churning out watered down easily digestible SKUs.
Todd Ingermanson falls in to this breed of gifted maker. Known mostly for the work that he does in crafting beautiful bespoke bicycles under the Black Cat badge; polymath is probably a more accurate title to perhaps burden and define the man. Working out of his home shop in Aptos, Todd and his partner have carved out their own slice of paradise in the Nisene Marks Forest above Monterey Bay- with a clear focus on living the good life and creating a space to focus on their work and actualize their place in the world. Having been in my share of builder work spaces at this point, I’ve come to understand that a lot of gifted craftspeople make due, and in some cases even thrive with a modest footprint, and limited tools and resources at their disposal; and Todd’s no outlier in that respect. It’s the resourcefulness and attention to detail that inevitably percolates to the surface in these people that impresses the most- and how that thoughtfulness extends clear beyond the walls of that modest workspace relegated to fabricating some of the most highly sought after custom bicycle frames being built in the States these days. You get to see it on display in the most subtle of ways; be it a simple, delicious meal prepared, or a custom motorcycle restoration undertaking, or gardening hacks and home improvement projects on their property- that attention to detail and unwillingness to cut corners that informs and structures a way of living an intentional life.
Mine and Rie’s time in California was concluded with a day spent at Box Dog Bikes in San Francisco, sharing their space with our buds Kyle and Jim from Outershell, and SF’s local Deathless Coffee operated by Rai Littlejohn. Box Dog is one of SimWorks oldest dealers in the US, and candidly it was my first visit to their worker-owned cooperative space. Located in the heart of the Mission district, the shop caters to an eclectic mix of devoted commuters, adventure cyclists, and a range of recreational riders who all appreciate a low-stress and inclusive environment in which to shop a thoughtfully curated selection of bikes, aftermarket parts and accessories, as well as reasonable and honest rates on quality service. Geoffrey and I have corresponded for years via e-mail, so it was great to finally put a face with a name. Having Outershell there with us was a great way to reconnect with Kyle and Jim- who had a strong pull of their own loyal enthusiasts coming through the door that afternoon. Rai kept us all thoroughly caffeinated with perfectly crafted shots of espresso out of an impressively compact and efficient La Marzocco machine and kit that he travels with to make that show come to life. His love for coffee- which certainly shines through in his methodically pulled shots of espresso, were a sublime treat more than once during the course of our day.
That sun dappled spring Saturday had folks out en masse to catch a peek at a few of our new products, show off some of their own SimWorks dressed rigs, reconnect with out of touch friends, support all of us in attendance there at the shop, or just to take a brief hiatus from a ride. As always, the reward of the opportunity to connect with a host of our customers in person, and to show some appreciation to one of our dealers and their community was the easy-lift payoff for making the trip, and hauling our kit and wares around. Ultimately it’s a gift and a pleasure to give a few high-fives, and watch some faces light up when someone perhaps picks up a SimWorks product for the first time. Maybe that life-long journey and a love for bikes begins for them there that day.