Author Archives: josh

Bill Davidson: Seattle’s Legendary Frame Builder

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Bill Davidson in the new Davidson-Kullaway shop. Photo by Josh Cohen.

A few months ago, custom bike builders Bill Davidson of Davidson Bicycles and Max Kullaway of 333 Fabrication officially joined forces after many years of quiet partnership. One of the cool features of the new Davidson-Kullaway custom frame shop in Seattle’s Fremont neighborhood is a picture window in the wall that separates the customer area up front from the workshop in the back. It allows customers to watch the pair at work building beautiful bikes. When I arrived at the shop last week, I did just that. Kullaway was behind a translucent screen welding up a frame. Davidson, looking like a blue collar scientist in his denim shop smock, was standing over a milling machine cutting tubes. Eventually, they noticed me standing there and Davidson joined me up front.

If you know anything about frame building, Davidson likely needs little introduction. He’s been in the business for over 40 years, which puts him in the company of just a handful of other American builders. When he got started in 1973 there barely was such a thing as a custom frame builder in the U.S. We sat down at his new shop to talk about his long career, learning to build bikes in the 70s, the evolution of the frame building business, his new venture with Kullaway, and more.

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Clarence Eckerson Jr: The Revolution Will Be Televised

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Clarence Eckerson Jr. is founder of Street Films. Photo courtesy Clarence Eckerson Jr.

I’m pretty sure my introduction to Street Films was “Hal Grades Your Bike Locking.” In it, a brash, dread-headed bike mechanic named Hal Ruzal walks around New York City grading people’s lock jobs (mostly Fs) and explaining how they could do better. The point was not to show how dumb New Yorkers are about protecting their bikes. It was to educate people about the very real threat of bike theft. Education is the point of all of the nearly-500 Street Films that have been produced since its launch in 2007. They show the best of biking, walking, transit, and street design (and occasionally the worst) to help people learn improve their own communities and lives.

That Street Films is driven by positivity and a desire to educate is little surprise given how cheerful and positive its founder Clarence Eckerson Jr. is. Through the course of our phone interview, his answers were constantly punctuated by laughter. In between laughs, Eckerson told me about Street Films’ history, his life as a filmmaker and streets advocate, the critical intersection of advocacy and mass media, and much more.

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Brook Negussie: Cycling’s Lessons For Success

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Brook Negussie on the University of Washington campus. Photos courtesy Brook Negussie.

This year’s national Youth Bike Summit kicked off with short, TED Talk-esq presentations by advocates, industry execs, a former Olympic track racer and others. After the polished professional speakers had given their spiels, a young man named Brook Negussie stepped up to the podium to share his own powerful story. A 19-year old freshman at University of Washington, Negussie has immigrated to SeaTac, Washington from Ethiopia when he was 9. When he was in high school he got involved with the Major Taylor Project, a program run by Cascade Bicycle Club that brings bike clubs to under-served schools in the Seattle area. The kids in Major Taylor learn bike repair skills, go on after school rides, participate in bigger ride events and races, and more. [Read The Bicycle Story’s interview with Major Taylor Project founder Ed Ewing.]

Speaking to the crowd of youth and adult advocates at the Summit, Negussie credited the Major Taylor Project for giving him the skills and motivation necessary to tackle any challenge. I sat down with Negussie at a coffee shop near the UW campus to learn more about his experience immigrating to the U.S., the role bikes have played in his life, Major Taylor’s impact and more.

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Mountain Biking to Bothies in the Scottish Wilderness

Adventurer, author, and filmmaker Alastair Humphreys just produced this excellent short film about mountain biking to Scottish bothies, old abandoned farmhouses now used as shelter by hikers, climbers and bikers. Part ode to adventure, part history of the bothey, the video is well worth a watch. Learn more about Alastair in his fall 2014 interview with The Bicycle Story.

Ellen Noble: The Next Big Thing in American Cyclocross

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Ellen Noble taking the U23 leaders jersey at Gloucester. Photo via cycle-smart.com

For most people, riding bikes in second grade meant cruising around on park sidewalks with friends. For Ellen Noble, it meant lining up against adults in her first mountain bike race. It helps explain how, at just 19, she’s a professional cyclist with two cyclocross and two mountain bike national titles and nearly a dozen UCI podiums and wins to her name.

Though she’d been making a splash for a few years as a prominent elite junior, it was just last season that Noble had a major breakthrough and established herself as one of the strongest racers in the pro women’s field. She credits much of that success to joining the JAM Fund cycling team, the nonprofit development squad founded by Jeremy Powers, Alec Donahue, and Mukunda Feldman. I spoke to Noble about her early days racing with her parents, her development into a professional, JAM Fund’s successful development program, the difficulties of being a teenage pro athlete, and much more.

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