PDW Good Neighbor Series – Vol. 9 Rapha North America: Jeremy Dunn
Welcome to another installment of the PDW Good Neighbor Series. This time around we’ve ventured a bit outside our immediate N. Williams Ave neighborhood and headed across the river to chat with longtime friend of PDW, Jeremy Dunn (a.k.a. JD) of Rapha North America.
Jeremy, like myself, hails from Wisconsin and was gracious enough to expand upon a few of our normally trivial questions.
With great candor and gentlemanly poise, he provides an honest and in-depth portrait of the communications realm over at Rapha. Get set for some hard-hitting journalism on topics like Sheldon Brown, the Jens Voigt Army, pink frilly underwear, and the god known as Freddy Mercury.
Read on, Compadres, and enjoy!
Name: Jeremy Dunn, Company: Rapha North America - Rapha Spring/ Summer 2013 Collection
[L to R, top to bottom: JD and bike, Mr. Smiley outside Rapha North America HQ, the new old Citroen, Luggage, Sippin’ properly, Citroen Sign]
KM: How long have you been in the bike biz? What’s your bio? How did you end up in Portland?
JD: Let's see. I started at a bike shop in Milwaukee, Wisconsin — Ben's Cycles in about the spring of 2000. It was pretty cool over there. Actually, it was mindblowingly cool over there and just the thought of Drew still running things means that it probably still is.
I think the only thing I did was change flats for the first summer. However, it was a great place to learn a bit about bikes and a bit about the cycling culture. The guy who managed sponsorship for the Saturn Cycling Team (think Tim Johnson, Jonathan Page, Mark McCormack and Chris Horner) lived above the shop so we were regaled with some of those stories and then watch them thrash SuperWeek, needless to say--exciting times.
From there I moved out to Boston to pursue a career in the film and television world. I wanted to work in documentary television and shoot documentaries and that whole scene. It was definitely a hustle that either I wasn't used to, or wasn't into at the time. I was called back no less than 6 times to interview for a camera operator position for a kids show about an animated dog and that's when I lost it and started looking back into the industry that I had fun with… bicycles.
Luckily, I found a job working for a legend. Straight to the top next to a man with an eagle taped to his helmet. You know that man as Sheldon Brown. I spent a couple years at Harris Cyclery in their "internet department" chasing after the 5,000 + static interweb pages that Sheldon had cobbled together over the years. It was amazing in a lot of ways.
Actually, there were a couple cool things there. One is a man called TQ. He influenced me in many ways, mostly by introducing me to cool bands like High Llamas and Sparks.
The other was that there were a couple of us that started a team there racing this thing called "cyclocross" it was crazy. A bunch of bike messengers banding together to roam around the East Coast doing bicycle races. It is staggering the number of cross races you can do on the East Coast if you put your mind to it. Wow. Plus, when the people there realized that there were a bunch of us into bike racing rather than the crusty ol touring bikes that S. Brown was pumping out they opened up to us in a whole new way and that's when I met Steve Pucci and Chris DiStefano. Those two right there could be a novel in and of themselves.
Then I picked up shop and moved over to Cambridge Bicycle and the whole cycle of life started over again but in an "urban" environment. Sort of.
From there it gets easier and shorter, I promise.
We got a catalog in the mail from a company called Rapha. Maybe you've heard of it? Well, I had just started this cycling publication and was about to show it at the NAHBS show in Portland, Oregon a few months later. With a little internet research I found out that these "Rapha" folks actually had a small home base in the Portland area. So, while out in Portland for the worlds largest and most exclusive handmade bicycle show I had a little meeting with Mr. Slate Olson and Mr. Daniel Pasley and the forming of an East Coast Rapha Continental was fully underway.
Side Note: I was sporting a ridiculous blonde mustache at the time, so I don't know what they were thinking.
So, that, aside from a few thousand miles of riding and a whole slew of great people along the way pretty much brings us up to now….let's move on.
[Beloved and Rapha sign, JD the Barkeep, Baller fridge, the Rapha office at work, Horsin’ around, Bridgeport on tap, Up close with the Citroen, Grillin’, JD as Joe Cool, Their own brand of coffeemakers]
KM: Prince or Queen?
JD: Well, let's just say this. Freddy Mercury is a god. In fact, he's even named after one. And isn't a "prince" just the consummate "next in line for the throne." A throne that Freddy Mercury will own forever.
KM: How much can you bench? What is your vertical?
JD: What does the bar weigh on those bench press machines? I'm pretty sure I could still heft one of those. No idea on the vertical although I recently got a pair of shoes that can measure that. Which is something that is very important to LeBron and his fans.
KM: What’s your favorite thing about cycling in Portland? Where could things improve?
JD: My favorite thing about cycling in Portland is the number of races one can do. My least favorite thing about cycling in Portland is the number of races that you can do that will help advance cycling on a National level. The folks here in Portland have done such a good job of working on the scene here that it has started to become insular. I know I know, that sounds like a bad thing, but it isn't. It is just going to say that it's really good here. In fact, it's freaking great! You can race every day of the week through the summer. But there is one thing that is holding us back... We need some UCI cross races. Then again, maybe that's the last thing we need.
KM: Who’s a better dresser, you or Slate Olson?
JD: Slate has a very awesome, very classical style. He loves Jack Purcell's in a variety of colors, he probably has more than one suit as well. His sweaters do not have holes in them. Versus my style where I see something that I like and I wear it for the next six months straight until it falls off my body and smells like it came out of a raccoon den. This style of his carries over to the bike as well. We have a thing around here we call the "Olson Effect" and I think he keeps doing it because it keeps the US sales high. He will wear something Rapha, look all cool in it, and then we'll go out and order it. Then Tim and I will be on a ride looking all goofy and say to each other "did you get that because Slate had it? Yes. Damn, it looked better on him." Ok, so to answer your question - Slate.
KM: What's your favorite Rapha product?
JD: Currently - Thermal Bib Shorts - they keep the boys warm and snuggly all winter long. Remember when Craft had those windproof underwear that went under your bibs? You don't? Well, they were awesome. These are better. All Time - Leather town gloves? Gilet?
KM: I have to agree. Those thermal bibs are pretty much my favorite piece of cycling gear ever.
[Editor's note: To see new stuff, check out Rapha's new Spring/Summer 2013 collection here]
KM: You’re a fairly adept baller on the court at our weekly basketball game. What other sports are you good at? What game could use some work?
JD: Hmm. I'm sure that my golf game could use some work. I can't count how many times my father woke me before 6am in the summer to play golf with him. I think it’s where my distain from getting up early comes from. I'd like to think that I'm good at ultimate frisbee, or baseball, but I'm not sure. Those two leagues have yet to really grab hold here in Portland (actually, I'm sure the Ultimate league is probably just fine).
[JD from the weekly PDW Thursday Night Basketball Game]
KM: What is your favorite NFL team? How dare you?
JD: Pittsburgh Steelers - for a few reasons. 1) they are my co-worker Gerben's favorite team. When he moved to the US from the Netherlands a couple years ago he started a blog about the trials and tribulations associated with picking a favorite team within a sport he knew nothing about. Needless to say Gerben has forgotten what the actual web address is, but I liked the concept. 2) James Harrison. He gets fined for hitting too hard. That's badass. Then he turns around and and fights back when the NFL tries to sell the photos they took of the plays they just fined him for. That's double standard badass. He also turned down a visit to the White House post Super Bowl win because "the president would have invited whomever won" that's badass. His badassery knows no bounds.
KM: Wrong, it’s the Green Bay Packers.
KM: Humor me, do you have a favorite PDW Product?
JD: I love the full metal fenders. Although sometimes when a small rock gets kicked up in them it rattles around and scares me to the point that I think I've done something wrong. Which I haven't. Also, the Fenderbot has this little trick to the packaging that allegedly my good friend Kyle was a part of inventing. When I saw that the cardboard backing of the fenderbot actually had the drill holes on there and that Kyle was the idea behind that, I was pretty much sold. Plus, who wants to have to remove their lights every time they go to the movies? (I go to the movies a lot and have lost more than a few lights that way.)
[Full Metal Fenders up close, Fenderbot, JD and his steed]
KM: Roller: Skates or Blades?
JD: Wait, what? That's a question? Go watch some Roller Derby and then tell me what you think of whenever you see Roller Blades again after that.
KM: Rapha has made a great effort to be a part of racing culture around the US (and the world). What elements are you most proud of? By our count your ladies are racking up some pretty decent results in the USGP…
JD: We try. Just a couple weeks ago our Rapha-FOCUS racer Jasmin Achermann (she's Swiss and based in Europe) got on the podium at the Roubaix World Cup Cyclocross race. That is so freaking awesome. More than with the men's side of racing you see that women support what these ladies are doing through a "I want to be like them" attitude. But, of course, who doesn't want to be like Gabby Day and Julie Krasniak? I have seen quite a bit of this with their racing here in the states (it's a very different scene here compared to its European counterpart) and they have both come away from it with a definite fan base.
KM: What is your favorite hobby outside of riding bikes and losing at basketball?
JD: I used to say "reading" whenever a question like this would pop up. Then for a while I stopped telling people that because I was embarrassed by putting the though of myself "curled up with a good book" into people's minds. But now that it's back en vogue I'd say reading again. But, the caveat to that is that it's more of a lifestyle choice than a hobby. Magazines, comic books, novels, historical fiction, non-fiction… the back of a cereal box, it really doesn't matter.
KM: What are your top 5 favorite albums?
JD: Of the moment? Tame Impala - Lonerism The Strokes - Angles (no idea why, I just like it) MF Doom is Viktor Vaughn - I like masks Red Fang - Tour EP Anything Notorious B.I.G
KM: With the recent détente between JVA and Rapha, which was brokered by our friends over at Chris King, what does the future hold for relations between you two? Can we expect successful ongoing bi-lateral cooperation? Or just general silliness?
JD: Silliness is such a good word for that. Who's got that kind of time? They're the real pro's here, those JVA guys. We've got people working around the clock to maintain a real website with content that we produce…they bang out a better, well functioning site over the weekend… sigh. Also, we've teamed up with JVA to produce a series of beer coasters documenting their rise to popularity and a pop-up childrens book narrated by Jens Voigt. It's called "Your Right to Voigt."
[JD brokering the peace between Jens Voigt Army and Rapha. Image courtesty of Kyle Von Hoetzendorff]
KM: John Elway or Joe Montana?
JD: Are we going back to the badass-o-meter? Then Montana for sure.
KM: The correct answer is Aaron Rodgers. We also would have accepted Bart Starr
KM: Favorite 3 books?
JD: Right now I'm reading a book called The Professional by W.C. Heinz. It's about boxing, but really its about the costs that are associated with being a professional in the world of sport. Oh, and it's fucking amazing. FreeDarko Presents: The Macrophenomenal Pro Basketball Almanac - this book taught me that there was a different way of looking at popular sports that I have appreciated again and again and again since reading. It's amazing and the illustrations are amazing as well. Run Rabbit by John Updike
KM: Hammocks or cots?
JD: I slept in a hammock one time in Panama. It was at the top of the mountain and the forest service service hut that was supposed to be open wasn't. My roommate and I both slept in one hammock because it was so cold out. So, I will forever associate hammocks with the smell of someone else's feet. Cot.
KM: Describe your favorite pair of underwear?
JD: Well, they're frilly, pink and…wait a minute…ok, we're done here.
KM: Thanks JD!