Saturday, November 10, 2007

Thank Merckx for places like Pacific Coast Cycles...

I wouldn’t be who/what I am today if it weren’t for Pacific Coast Cycles and Chuck Hoefer. Chuck hired me and paid me the princely sum of $7.50/hour at a time when I was making a very unhappy $40,000/year (and a company car). I knew that bikes were where my life was. I’d only been riding for a few years, but in that short time, I knew that I had found “it.”

I remember one customer who sent a letter to the owner complaining about (I forget the exact words, but this is the gist of it) “a surly, unkempt man who did not do a good job in helping her.” Chuck was probably just telling her like he saw it. A lot of people describe Chuck as grumpy, but most mistake “grumpy” for being brutally honest. He won’t lie to you. He won’t sugar coat the answer to a question that is designed to make you feel good. He’ll give you the straight scoop. And it will be the correct answer.

You don’t walk into a sushi restaurant and ask for a hamburger. And you don’t walk into Pacific Coast Cycles looking for a $10,000 gee-whizz one-year graphic encrusted carbon rig. Walking into his shop and seeing the 29ers on the floor and the plethora of sweet older road bikes for sale will (or should if you are observant) tell you immediately what kind of shop you are in.

While you won’t find the latest and (questionably) greatest at Pacific Coast Cycles, you will find someone who can build a great wheel that is appropriate for you and your riding style. You’ll find someone who can get you a replacement part for your Campy NR front derailleur. You’ll find someone who can retap your bunged up bottom bracket threads to Italian so you can get your bike back on the road. You’ll find someone who can braze a broken canti post back to your bike. You’ll find a genuine bike shop.

Additionally, he has cultivated some people who have went on to do great things in the bike industry. When I started there, I was filling a spot left vacant by Leo Castellon, a great bike mechanic and a very talented frame builder. Leo left Chuck’s shop to become the frame builder for David Tesch and later Leo hung his name on his own frames. I bought a custom, beautiful, fillet-brazed Tange Ultralight Prestige frame from Leo that I had painted Eddy Orange. Leo also went on to build frames for VooDoo, Merlin, Quintana Roo, and Mako. He also built some of the frames Joe Murray raced on in Joe’s Fisher days (probably a reason he was contacted to build VooDoo frames).

I worked with another great bike mechanic, Brian Lucas. Brian is of Korean heritage and does a horrible John Wayne accent. Brian would call me and in his mild accent try to imitate the Duke and say something witty. I would reply with a simple, “Hi, Brian.” “Aw, how’d you know it was me?” he’d ask. Um, lucky? Brian moved up to Specialized after his time with Chuck and was the guy who bonded all those sweet carbon lugged Specialized Stumpjumper Ultimate frames. The ones with the titanium lugs and carbon tubes. Brian spent quite a number of years at Specialized as a jack-of-all-trades before settling down in Hollister, CA and opening his own bike shop Off-The-Chain.

They guy who took my spot after I left Chuck’s shop is Rob Moorman. Like me, Rob was a customer of Pacific Coast Cycles first. I remember him as a marine stationed at Camp Pendleton coming into the shop to lust after the coolest parts and bikes from Marin’s best. Rob’s stint with the marines ended about the same time I left Pacific Coast Cycles to work at Haro and my position was his to fill. Rob was at the shop for quite a while with a bit of time spent at SE Racing before taking a position at Felt and then moving to Idaho to become a rep and is now the company rep for (as I learned recently when Rob called me) Raleigh.

There are still things I do to this day that originated from my days under Chuck’s tutelage. Things like cutting zip ties near the lock part so they can be reused. Saving rubber bands in a coffee can. Making my own signs and hang tags for bikes and other parts out of pieces of cardboard boxes. Making sure it’s a tough task to remove pedals after I installed them. Dialing in a bike with just the right length of cable casing so the bars can spin in a crash, yet don’t look like a can of silly string got loose. Tightening the brake levers just so, so in that crash, they rotate around the bar instead of breaking. When a bike left our shop, it looked “right.” That’s important to me – how the bike looks.

Thanks, Chuck.