Mike Flanigan: Frame Builder History with ANT Bike Mike

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ANT Bike’s Mike Flanigan with a Boston Roadster. Photo via ANT Bike flickr.

New England is a stronghold of American custom frame builders. Portland, OR may have more of them, but New Englanders have been at it longer. The U.S. custom frame building business traces its roots to the 1970s when Richard Sachs, Peter Weigle, and Ben Serotta learned the craft at Whitcomb Cycles in London. Of course, companies such as Schwinn and Huffy had been manufacturing bicycles in the U.S. for decades, but Sachs, Weigle and Serotta were among the first to bring the tailor-made style of bicycle building to the States. When they returned to New England in 1972, Weigle and Sachs started the short-lived Whitcomb USA. Serotta started Serotta Cycles. The three laid the foundation for many generations of builders to come in the region.

Flash forward to the late 80s, Fat City Cycles was in full swing and a young Mike Flanigan rolled into Boston from Texas and talked his way into a job in the paint department. Over his five years there he became a master painter and found the time to teach himself TIG welding. When Fat City was sold in the mid-90s, Flanigan and a few other Fat City refugees started Independent Fabrication. In the early 2000s, dissatisfied with the direction of his company, he left and launched his one-man, city and cargo bike-focused shop, Alternative Needs Transportation (ANT). Between Fat City, Independent Fabrication, and ANT, Flanigan has played an important role in shaping the modern frame building landscape. He also played a part in bringing city bikes to the American mainstream. I spoke to Flanigan about his deep history in the frame building world, Fat City’s major influence, the value and significant of custom bikes, and his recent closure of ANT bikes.

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Luc Mehl: Life, Death, and Philosophy in the Alaskan Wilderness

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Luc Mehl (right) mid-way through a 200 mile ski and packraft trip. Photo by Danny Powers.

Luc Mehl is an adventurer in the truest sense. His deepest passion is to set a course across a tract of the Alaskan wild then cover it by foot, ski, packraft, bike, and even ice skate. He documents his human-powered traverses in great detail on his website through photography, video, and writing. For the past several years, his biggest objective was to complete traverses across North America’s three tallest peaks–Denali, Logan, and Orizaba–trips that took Mehl and partners across hundreds of miles of forests, desert, glaciers, rivers, and mountain peaks for nearly a month each time. In between, he’s done dozens of smaller traverses and many summer and winter Alaska Mountain Wilderness Classics, brutal point-to-point adventure races.

Bikes played an important role on two of his “Big Three” traverses, but Mehl is not a cyclist, per se (though he loves mountain biking and recently got a fat bike). Nonetheless there are universal themes of challenge, risk, reward and satisfaction in his adventuring that transcend modes of travel. I spoke to Mehl about growing up in the Alaskan interior and his early introduction to adventuring, the logistics of 30-day wilderness trips, what he gets out of his traverses emotionally and physically, balancing the very real risk of death with the rewards of his trips, and much more.

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Alison Powers: America’s Fastest Retiree

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Alison Powers demonstrating her well practiced victory salute. Photo via Amgen Tour of California.

If you’re a fan of road racing, you’re no doubt familiar with Alison Powers. If not, you certainly should be. In her eight year professional career, Powers was consistently dominant, winning four national championships, a Pan American championship, two National Race Calendar (NRC) overall titles, and many, many more. Last year, she became the first American woman to win all three road national championship titles–criterium, time trial, and road race–at the same time. Powers followed up that tremendous feat by retiring from professional racing. And though she’s burnt out on being an athlete after 20-plus years of high-level ski and bike racing, Powers’ passion for cycling continues on through her coaching business, ALP Cycles Coaching. I spoke to Powers about her entry into bike racing, her lightning fast rise to the professional ranks, the glacial growth of professional women’s racing, her race career burnout, and her new life as a retiree.

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Amanda Carey: Fighting for Podiums, Fighting for Access

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Amanda Carey atop the podium at the 2013 Trans-Sylvania Epic. Photo via Trans-Sylvania Epic.

Amanda Carey is Newton’s First Law personified. She started moving (and moving fast) a long time ago and seems incapable of stopping. Since college she’s been a Jackson Hole ski bum, land conservationist, bike and pedestrian advocate, professional mountain biker and cyclocross racer, coach, and Executive Director of a mountain bike advocacy nonprofit. Often times she was doing a few of those at any given time. As a pro mountain biker she focused her energy on 100-milers and multi-day stage racing, notching wins at the Breck Epic, Trans-Sylvania Epic, and Pisgah Stage Race and earning multiple National Ultra Endurance series overall titles. In December 2014 she started her new role as Executive Director of Mountain Bike the Tetons. It is perhaps unsurprising that we had lots to talk about. I spoke to Carey about her years as a professional racer, the appeal of endurance racing, her new life as a mountain bike advocate, the major access hurdles mountain bikers still face (and fat bikers are starting to face), and much more.

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Olatunji Oboi Reed: Cycling’s Power to Transform City and Self

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Slow Roll Chicago founders Jamal Julien (left) and Oboi Reed (right). Photo via actionhub.com.

Cycling saved Oboi Reed’s life. He has long suffered from depression and, in the darkest moments of a severe bout with the disease years ago, was contemplating suicide. Instead he went for a bike ride along Chicago’s Lakefront Trail. It wasn’t a magical cure. But the exercise, the natural environment, and the social connection to other cyclists helped put him on a path to recovery and sparked a deep love for cycling. Now Reed is working to spread that bicycle love throughout his city. He wants to live in a Chicago with safe bike infrastructure, ample bike resources, and bike share stations in every neighborhood; a Chicago where everyone can access cycling’s inherent health, environmental, and economic benefits regardless of race or class.

It’s a lofty goal. Currently, Chicago’s bike infrastructure is clustered predominantly in the city’s whiter, more affluent downtown and North Side neighborhoods. Reed says the city hasn’t made an equitable investment in bike infrastructure in the poorer, blacker South and West Side neighborhoods, which, in turn, discourages riding there. It’s a problem he’s working actively to fix. He co-founded Slow Roll Chicago and is involved with Red Bike & Green and South Side Critical Mass, organized rides focused on getting more people of color biking. Reed’s also increasingly been a part of Chicago’s bike politics. In December, he and a coalition of black bike advocates presented a letter to the Mayor’s Bicycle Advisory Committee demanding a public commitment from the city and state to invest an equal share in bike infrastructure, education, and bike share stations. I spoke to Reed about cycling’s positive impact on his depression, his foray into bike advocacy and organizing, perceptions of cycling in some black communities, fighting for bike equity in Chicago, and more.

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