Sweetpea Journey #6: More Than the Sum of Its Parts

If you didn’t know, I’m getting a custom-made bike from Sweetpea Bicycles. Natalie Ramsland builds these bikes specifically for women, one of just two women frame builders in the United States (the other is Luna Cycles). Many people I know are interested in hearing about the process, so I hope to be blogging about it each step of the way. Read the series here. Now for the sixth installment! Awaaaay weeee goooo…

Winter has been creeping into my life and into my head.

“What the heck does that have to do with your bike?” you ask. When it gets cold and rainy outside, it gets cold inside my house, and my mental focus on staying warm becomes more intense as winter descends. Thus, I have been spending many of my days sitting with a blanket on my lap, drinking warm tea, and watching chubby squirrels perform aerial stunts to get at berries in the hawthorne tree outside my window. Everything else becomes secondary, like returning one’s library books, or making a final decision about the color of one’s Sweetpea. Winter impacts me deeply.

Because of this, Natalie had to give me a couple of friendly nudges. First, she informed me when she had shipped my frame off to the powdercoating shop in Colorado, and about a week later, she followed up by reminding me that they were awaiting instruction from me to get started.

That’s when my anxiety and guilt about slowing down the process fully kicked in. Knowing what was holding me back, I brought in the big guns. A design consultant with years of expertise in color, pattern, and materials coordination in the print and textile worlds, and so eager to work with me on any project that my gratitude would be enough to repay her.

My mom.

One evening we conspired for two hours, using my computer, her trusty Pantone color book (which has been invaluable in this process), a design concept, and our grit. We worked backwards, making parts decisions that could impact the color of the frame (if that rack isn’t available in black, there might be too much chrome, meaning we might need to rethink things!). We discussed subtle color differences in the Pantone colors and came to a final decision. At last I was ready to give some direction. And it became even clearer to me that this is going to be one hot little bike, more than the sum of its parts.

The next morning I baked Natalie some homemade blackberry muffins, then headed over to the shop to brief her, showing her the color swatches for the frame. I also made a detailing request that will make this Sweetpea mine and mine alone.

But I’ve been delightfully vague. “What colors will be on your frame?” you inquire. Your mind aches to know more about my detailing request. This epic story needs some dramatic tension, so I’m intentionally not divulging the information until I get the bike.

I will tell you this though. I’m ordering a new Brooks saddle: the B17 Champion Special, in honey.

And a green Chris King headset.

In a perfect world I’d also have a wheel with Chris King green hubs to match the headset, but sadly, doing a custom wheel build is too expensive to justify it on looks alone.

Frame painting takes 4-6 weeks, and because of my slight delay in giving them instructions, I’m starting to view my Sweetpea as a birthday bike (my birthday is January 3rd). If it weren’t for the craziness of the holidays, combined with some self-imposed academic deadlines, I might pine away for the next month. But I’ve got some serious work to do.

Next: While my frame is getting the Colorado spa treatment, I make a few more parts decisions, including whether I want my bike to have a Shimano Dura-Ace or Ultegra drivetrain. After my bike’s homecoming, she gets built up by the awesome mechanic, and then–oh, then!–perhaps a ride or two before my final bike fitting.

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