Good Neighbor Series, Vol. 8: Ahearne Cycles
Welcome to the next installment of the PDW Good Neighbor Series. This time we feature one of our favorite builders in town, Joseph Ahearne of Ahearne Cycles. Like our other good neighbors, Joseph is situated right up the street from us along N. Williams Ave. Joseph designs and builds a pretty diverse range of custom steel bicycles from Cycle Trucks to killer Fat Bikes.
I sat down with him recently to hammer out the secrets of his shared lair (with Mitch Pryor), what makes a crust punk crust, and why the yurt. Read on...with love and fury!
Occupation: frame builder
KM: Where are you from?
JA: As Popeye's genie once said, "I come from the noplace, I go to the nowhere, and here I am."
KM: When did you come to Portland?
JA: I first landed here after being in Alaska in 1995.
KM: Who is your idol?
JA: No gods no idols.
KM: Okay, then, who is your muse?
KM: Glad you didn’t say Harrogate.
KM: Whom do you most admire in the cycling world?
JA: The ones who gave up their cars.
KM: What’s it like sharing a space with Mitch Pryor?
JA: It's like living with your brother on a small boat. Sometimes everything's smooth and the sky and water are lovely to see. Other times the weather's shitty and you've got to keep bailing to stay afloat.
KM: Do you guys dance, fight, or tickle more?
JA: None of your business.
KM: Where did you learn framebuilding? How long have you been building?
JA: I first learned from Tim Paterek, then I spent a couple of years (at least) fucking things up, which taught me a lot. I've been building for ten years.
KM: Can you elaborate on some of the details in the design of your headtube badges?
JA: No, but you can read all about it on Karl Edward's blog. He's the artist who I worked with to design it.
KM: I’ve heard someone say that you had some crust punk roots. Would you care to elaborate on such a rumor?
JA: I've traveled a lot, most of it the hard way. I've been dirty. Can't get enough of the music that makes most people want to shoot themselves.
KM: What is your favorite type of bicycle to ride and what are you most proud of building?
JA: Touring bike, a bike that can carry stuff.
KM: How do you separate the design and build processes?
JA: Function first, form follows. They should work together, and be as simple as possible. Maybe. Unless it needs to be complicated.
KM: Please describe your approach to craft?
JA: My approach? Like do I go at it with my mouth open, tongue at the corner, concentrating real hard? I don't know, there's no mirror by my workbench. Craft? I focus on one project at a time, step by step, working through the details. Because that's what it is in the end, a series of steps to follow to arrive at the best possible result. The way I do it may be different from the way someone else does it, which is what gives my bikes their uniqueness (or lack thereof). Mouth breather.
KM: What is your favorite Ian MacKaye band?
JA: Are you kidding me? Any answer I give will be incriminating. Of course Minor Threat, although I haven't listened to them in years.
KM: Where in town (generally speaking) do you reside? I hear you have a Yurt. Can you explain what it is for the uninitiated?
JA: I live in northeast Portland, and yes I've got a yurt. [It’s] based on a portable style of housing with first known origins in the really fucking nether regions of northern China, Mongolia, Eastern Russia, where nomadic tribes subsist off some scraggly, desolate and very lonely looking countryside. Because of the incredibly harsh winters and the need to keep moving to find food for their offspring, their horses and themselves, these tribal folk designed a light, sturdy, portable housing that can withstand the very gods of climatic rage and torrential, hurricane-like storms that plague the massive barren planes upon which they reside. The yurt in my yard is based on this design. When I tear the neighborhood open with serious stereo decibels I have no fear that my yurt will be destroyed.
KM: What is your power animal?
JA: Did you know that the word soricine means 'shrew-like'? Or that corvine means 'raven-like'? My power animal has the head of a shrew and the body of a raven. It's soricorvine, which kind of sounds like prescription medication.
KM: My therapist prescribes me soricorvine.
KM: Knowing full well that they are necessities for most, if you had to do without two items from the famous Surly sticker, “BONGS. FARTS. CHAINSAWS.” which would they be?
JA: I'd do without the bongs and farts.
KM: From my perspective, bicycle framebuilding is a tough business. What motivates you to keep building?
JA: I like bikes, I like building things. My hands need to keep doing things.
KM: You made big a big splash at NAHBS this year with your fat bike. The world wants to know, will you be building more fat bikes?
JA: Orders will decide.
KM: How do you keep your hands warm in winter without heat in the shop?
JA: Internal fire.
KM: Please choose one or the other: Roller blades or roller skates?
KM: Bi-planes or helicopters?
KM: Boxers or Berneses? (it’s a dog question)
KM: Up or down?
JA: The way up is the way down.
KM: Whoa, I like that one.
KM: Telegram or email?
KM: Tent or bivy sac?
JA: Depends how bad the mosquitos are. Probably a small tent.
KM: Pedal or coast?
JA: The pedal is the coast.
KM: Battle Cat or Cringer?
KM: Obviously you’re not a He-Man fan.
KM: Have you ever built a tandem? Would you build me one? I want one reverse engineered for the smaller rider up front.
JA: Yes, I'll build you a tandem. Seriously, I want to do it. And yes, I'll put the shorter rider in front.
KM: Where is the coolest place you have ever visited?
JA: Alaska, by boat, way out in the middle of a deep ink black sound after a storm so that everywhere was strewn giant chunks of blue glacial ice.
KM: What is your most memorable ride you’ve ever done?
JA: Along the Brenta River in Italy, from Padova to Venice. Big villas, lazy curves; pretty dreamy.
KM: Thanks, Joseph!