Filed In: Process

Those Types of Bikes

October 11, 2019   |   Chris Blandford

I learned last week that UBI’s Portland campus is shutting down. That’s a shame; I enjoyed my time there more than just about any two week stretch I’ve had in recent memory. My family and I live in Portland in small part because of the experiences I had while attending UBI. My interest in building a bicycle led me to that school. Spending two weeks surrounded by Portland bike nerds made me realize that I wanted to be one, too. And so here I am. The news is unfortunate, but not all that surprising. Even a couple of years ago, I figured it might be time.

I’ve read it written--more and more, in fact--that the handmade niche of the bicycle industry is dying. I certainly can’t argue with that. Even in my short time of paying attention to such things, I’ve noticed waning interest. “Framebuilding”--as it’s called, I guess--isn’t what it used to be. Not compared to thirty years ago; not compared to ten years ago. What was once a 70’s-era trade became a 2000’s-era craft and has now been relegated to 2020’s-era… something else. If I was, or had goals to be, a professional custom bicycle builder, I’d be worried--wondering what the future held. Thankfully I’m not, and I don’t, so I needn’t be.

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Filed In: Process

Bridge

October 04, 2019   |   Chris Blandford

It’s been over a year since I’ve written anything for this spot. Not sure why, really. I’m still as enthusiastic about these bicycles, photos, and words as I’ve ever been. It’s not a case of writer’s block (or builder’s block) either; I have a million bikes to build and photos to take and stories to tell.

Might be my general apathy. Possibly my perfectionist paralysis. Maybe a combination of both, which is a frightening thought. Not sure.

There’s something about fall, however, that screams building bicycles and holing up in my little workshop to write and to edit photos. The leaves falling seem to induce motivation. And so here I am, back to not make promises I likely wouldn’t keep anyway. I’m going to try something new. Fewer long-form essays and stories and more regular posts and updates. I’ve updated my website to reflect that desire to keep a regular journal. Hopefully function follows form on that front. The completed bikes are now on their own, in galleries; the stories and posts will go in this spot here for as long as I can muster.

On that note, I’ve been getting a few questions through Instagram about process (both bike-related and photo-related), and so I may put together some task-oriented posts as well. How-to type stuff. I’m not a professional anything, but I can certainly describe how I go about things in my limited space, and with my underseasoned experience.

Anyway, we’ll see how this goes. No promises.

Now then, let’s catch up.

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Filed In: Stories

Headstone

August 17, 2018   |   Chris Blandford

I’ve visited this place countless times—once or twice a year for as long as I can remember. Almost always with my mother, his daughter. Almost always in the summer, when the Midwest air is as warm and sickly as overstored syrup.

My mom drives us up the cemetery’s western edge and parks deliberately at the end of one of its rows of unassuming headstones. She turns off the car’s engine, looks out the driver’s side window, and reaches down to open her door.

“Give me just a minute. I won’t be long,” she says.

There’s little about this cemetery that stands out, other than the person who happens to be buried here. The graveyard consists of three or four acres of land—an imperfect rectangle at the far edge of this forgotten, Iowa farm town. Bashful homes border one side; cornfields border the other three. The site is situated on a hill. At the top of the hill rests the town’s water tower, looking out over the dead and back towards a lightly traveled highway.

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Author's note: I wrote this story while working on a mixte-style bicycle frame for my wife. You can see the completed bicycle, here.

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