"The resulting bikes reflected this...oddly hacked road, hybrid, and touring frames sporting shortened + burnt stays, BMX platform pedals, repositioned braze-ons, mountain bike components (always STX-RC or lower), and cheapo 27" or 700c tires in some hybrid/commuter-friendly iteration...usually with gumwalls. Gravel gaps in North Georgia would be ridden with black socks stuck into Vans or Converse One Stars. Unbridled contrarian pedaling backed by a Leth-inspired dissonant minor chord taped down with masking tape on the Moog, played in a loop on an answering machine cassette tape...the kind of thing that happened before everyone was watching each other through a computer screen."
-Matt Chester, "A rough stuff machine as I see it," from his 5mod blog
I don't really want to be the kind of blog that aggregates and re-posts "content" from others' works but I would like to give credit to those that have inspired me. I've always appreciated Matt Chester's words on bikes and riding, not mention the beautifully minimalist machines he creates, ever since I saw one of his personal sleds on Fixed Gear Gallery back in the day. I've always liked the way puts his words out too, through long and detailed pieces that don't rely heavily on illustration but rather seemlessly weave together his experiences, borne of long miles in the saddle and days behind the bench mill and welding table, with a detailed knowledge of subaltern bicycle history, the kind of stuff that is only found in the archive of long-forgotten and low-circulation cycling publications, not the latest cycling coffee table book. His blog posts were sparse from a frequency standpoint--with often months or even years between them--but when one came out, it was always good reading. Thus, my own propensity to allow weeks or months to pass between blog posts, forgoing frequency for quality of writing.
I've been going back over some of his writings on the on-hold "5 metres of development" blog, trying to remind myself that the type of functional simplicity that allows robust mechanics with minimal material/financial investment does not necessarily equal "easy" in the momentary effort climbing hills or covering miles on your bike.
But that's okay.
Instead of worrying about whether I should spend my limited means on new wheels for the Casseroll so I can run something other than a Campy 8 speed road cassette so I can fit mountain bike cassettes so I can not worry about how hard it will be to get up any hill I can imagine facing.......
....I try to just sit up, look around, relax, and focus on riding with what I've got. Fitness and the ability to surmount obstacles are first-order effects of getting out there and riding, not my granny gear ratio. Focusing on refining bike fit is okay, since it is directly related to my ability to get out there day after day and mile after mile without pain or injury, but I try to also remember that fit is an iterative process that itself is made easier (more first-order effects!) through riding, rest, stretching, and the fitness and functionality that they bring.
I'm not sure what Matt's up to these days. I know he's struggled with illness and injury in the past couple of years, and his ability to focus on framebuilding has suffered, but whatever he's up to, I hope he's doing well. Someday I'd love to meet him and maybe put in some long gravel miles together.