Friday, June 8, 2012

New Beginnings

Tools and Lugs
Earlier this week I finally made it to 12 Channel Street in South Boston - the new home of Royal H. Cycles, Geekhouse Bikes, Hubway Bikeshare and a number of other local bicycle-related ventures. 
Geekhouse, New Space

Organised by the intrepid Marty Walsh of Geekhouse, HQ Boston is a new collective space in an industrial waterfront area dubbed the "Innovation District," and its acquisition has been the talk of the town among bikey people. It is big news. The space is big (24,000 sq ft), the commitment is big (10 year lease), and the scope of the project is big. The move shows there is growth in the local small scale bicycle industry, and implies a collective faith in this growth continuing.

12 Channel St, Interior

Seeing the venue for the first time - an entire second floor of a warehouse-type building, still mostly open floor space - I was overwhelmed by the sheer blank canvas potential of it. Anything could happen here. Many things will, soon.

12 Channel St, Interior
All morning long there was energy, movement. Planks scattered, walls going up. Men at work. At the same time it was oddly peaceful for a place with so much going on. The size of the space diffuses the construction noise. The light coming in from the outside casts a soft white glow over the debris. 
Geekhouse & Royal H Cycles, 12 Channel St
The floor space occupied by Geekhouse and Royal H has been set up and operational for months. There are beautiful machines, jigs, tools, frames and wheels suspended along the walls. 


Royal H, New Space
The presence of the framebuilders is there.
Royal H Lugwork

Oh yes.

12 Channel St, Interior
Walking through the space, I admit to feeling some nostalgia. The new venue lacks the personality of the old Geekhouse shack in Allston with its famous graffiti mural. It lacks the charm of the tiny old Royal H workshop in Somerville by the railroad tracks, just minutes from my house. There is no small neighbourhood feel here. Huge industrial buildings greeted me as I looked out the window, blocking the view of the Harbor. But even as I thought these things, I knew that it was the sentimentalist in me talking. Any place can become a neighbourhood once filled with neighbours, and the Innovation District is attracting new creative small businesses every day. Murals will be painted in due course. The personality of a space takes time to develop. 
Geekhouse & Royal H Cycles, 12 Channel St

This place has the potential for growth and collaboration that was not available to either of the occupants beforehand, and the excitement of this is almost tangible.

Shane, Geekhouse Bikes
The spirit of working together is in the air. Though I came to meet with Bryan of Royal H., I later encountered Shane - the man behind BostonBiker. I've corresponded with Shane in the past and I thought that we'd met before, but obviously we haven't because this was a totally different person. It took me a bit just to wrap my head around that and readjust my mental image of him, but soon we were giddy with talk of joint projects involving Shane's skillz and mine. 
Mixte Design
But back to the main purpose of my visit: I am working on a new mixte prototype with Royal H. Cycles. I sold the mixte Bryan made for me in 2009 to finance this, and although this was difficult I don't regret it. The new collaboration will be my design and Bryan's framebuilding. If the prototype works out and is cost-effective, the idea is that it would become a model available to order. I am not thinking of this as my personal bike and not getting attached to it. Very possibly I will sell the prototype, particularly if we end up having to make another. There is so much to say about what I hope this bicycle will be, but in these early stages I am too nervous and excited to talk about it too much. As far as form, I can say that it will be a low-trail 650B mixte with curved twin lateral stays. Fully lugged, with lots of modified lugwork. As far as function, my hope is to make a bike that will be suitable for both urban and long-distance transportation, including over hilly terrain, optimised for women who ride in their everyday clothing. There are lots of details regarding what this involves in my mind and why, and I look forward to sharing them.
Geekhouse & Royal H Cycles, 12 Channel St
In the meantime, it looks like I will be paying these gentlemen more visits over the summer, which is certainly not a bad thing. It will be wonderful to watch HQ Boston develop. If anyone local is interested in joining, there is space available and rent is cheap. Things are happening in Boston. Here's to new beginnings.