Wednesday, February 6, 2013
Hup United can be a somewhat mysterious bike team. If you dig enough you can find the story. And its a pretty awesome story to say the least. Not a lot of teams have the history we do. Hup began at Seven Cycles. That means a lot even today. There are still a bunch of Hup who work at Seven. One of the original members and my good friend still welds some of the finest bikes on the planet at Seven. So a couple of years ago when Seven's Rob Vandermark and Mike Salvatore approached me about a Hup Honey I didn't even hesitate. Yes was my quick answer and can I have it by September! Honey is a brand championed by Rob. It is separate from Seven but the bikes are built and manufactured at Seven in their Watertown facility. The Honey story is a blog post in itself. Its a great concept and project. One that I feel really strongly about.
These are the types of bikes I love. Simple. Steel. Yes I love steel. Bikes to be ridden. And raced. When we developed the first Hup Honey cross bike we had one goal. Build a cross bike uniquely suited to tackle all the American cross races throw at you. Stable on rough terrain, fast out of corners and confidence inspiring on off cambers. It was one of the best cross racing bikes I have ever ridden or raced. It was also one of the best offroad bikes I have ever tried. In New England we don't limit our cross bikes to the race course. Yeah going all out for 45 minutes on a taped off race course is awesome. But to me what is more beautiful is the ability of a cross bike to handle almost everything. One of my friends calls a cross bike the "Do Everything" bike. This is very true. And at its most basic is perfect for the type of "adventure" riding we do around here. Its awesome to be able to ride from your house on the road and find all kinds of trails in the woods to play on, then pop back out on the road and head to a coffee shop for pastries and good conversation.
I could spend hours talking about why I love steel bikes. So many people today have never had the chance to ride one. Its too bad. But that is all about to change. Steel is making a comeback. It has been fighting back at the high end for a while. The handbuilt show has grown at a level no one thought would have been possible. But steel at its core isn't just about show bikes its about riding all the time. Its about a bike that is built to be ridden not shown off. To use a cliche a bike with a soul. What does that even mean? To me a bike with soul is one that takes you places. Not just in the physical sense but in that you imprint on that bike all the amazing times you have riding that bike. I won't lie, there are times I will go down in my garage and just look at my bikes. And remember the rides. And the good times with friends. But back to the Honey project. That first batch of Blanco Hup Honey's were gorgeous and great riding bikes. Mike S and I talked a bit before this past cross season about making another batch. We had all kinds of ideas. He got me all stoked about doing a murdered out belt drive SSCX with discs. Then CX season went into full gear and it ended up being shelved while we went warp speed for the Fall races. At Ice Weasels Mike and Matt O'Keefe and I spent a lot of time talking more and more about it. Rob called me a bit after that to see if we wanted to do a relaunch of the project and offer a couple of other bikes. I jokingly said why not offer a 29er and a Winter/Rando bike as well. We talked a bit and I sort of assumed we would just redo the original as it was perfect. We reconnected to talk about a party we were planning for Hup/Seven and the Ride Studio. He asked what I thought about doing 5 bikes for the party to show off to the team. The party was ten days away. I cautiously asked him if this was possible. He said yes it was.
I have said it before but its worth saying again. What Rob can do is nothing short of amazing. He operates at a level that I really have never seen before. Brilliant minds are like this. I wonder at times if he even needs sleep. Once I knew we were doing this I got really excited. We had a quick call about some changes to the cross bike. Nothing major. Just a tweak here, a tweak there. Then we talked about the 29er and the Winterrando. We didn't talk about geometry or those things. I know better to leave that to the experts. We talked about the ride. And what these bikes would be for. The types of rides we would take them on. And yes we talked paint schemes. Honey's have traditionally been pretty understated in paint scheme. Which is great. But one of the things that really blew me away with the last Hup Honey project was the paint job. When you give a world class paint shop the green light to do what they do best you get some pretty mind blowing results. We wanted to integrate Hup's kit into each bike to show off the different styles. Hup has a reputation for really nice bike kit. And the translation of those designs to the bikes was amazing. What began as an end of season cross party for good friends became a gallery opening with the bikes as art. Rob, Mike and Matt would send me spy photos of the progress the bikes were making during the week. Each photo got me more and more excited to say the least.
But it can't be overstated to say how much they worked to get these bikes done. They produced five show worthy bikes in 10 days. Two bikes for the Ride Studio team and 3 for Hup. The Ride Studio Team is predominantly a road racing team so they were built two pure road racing machines. The Final 200 Meters is a pure crit and circuit race bike. It is designed to be the fastest bike on the course. Stiff and light with that stable feel steel is legendary for. Both of these bikes have striking race paint schemes with oversized tubing. These bikes were made to be carbon killing machines. Hup United is primarily a cyclocross race team. That is our birthright and that is the core of our mission. Race cross, breathe cross, grow cross. Its like a mantra. But we have grown a lot the last couple of years. We love riding our cross bikes all year round not just racing them. This has evolved to mtn biking. And gravel riding. And singlespeed mountain biking. Why lie we just love all things bike related. So it made sense to design 3 bikes that reflect who we are. Three Honey's were designed for Hup, a 29er, a Winterrando and of course a cross machine.
I had a general idea what the bikes would look like. But Rob and the crew kept them under wraps and promised a big splash at the party. Frankly I was too busy trying to get all the things for the party on my end. Guest lists, beer, making sure everything was set. If you have never been to one of the Ride Studio parties you are missing out. The RSC has become the hub for cycling culture in Boston. The parties are always a who's who of cycling. Its always a great time meeting old friends and making new ones. They go all out and all feel welcomed and have a great time. But the second I walked into this party it felt different. It was more like walking into a gallery opening than a bike shop party. The bikes were all on display and people were looking at each of them like works of art. To say that Rob, Mike and Matt and the whole team blew everyone's minds is an understatement. Each bike was taken so far it was incredible. And not in the handbuilt show manner where the bike is visually appealing but not a bike you could ride. These bikes were the pinnacle of their design objective. I don't know if I could pick one that stole the show. For me the Winterrando bike caught my eye and held me captivated. You could just sense all the possibilities with that bike.
And of course as a cross fanatic I kept coming back to the cross bike. The paint job frankly was off the charts. And all the little details were there. I frankly was bummed cx season was over. I wanted to take it out and get it covered in mud and slam it into some corners. The 29er was a thing of beauty. 29ers have totally changed how I ride a mountain bike. The Honey 29er had the new SRAM XX1 and just was calling my name. The party was a huge success. So many people came away stoked to ride bikes. Which in the end of the day is what it should be all about. I am really excited to see where the Honey project goes. Cross is having a huge effect on cycling right now. People are calling it the "Gateway Drug" and for good reason. You have so much fun during cross season you want to keep that feeling going all year round. Cross season is short. Riding season should be 365/24/7. Cross is bringing people to road riding and road racing as well as bringing a lot of riders into mountain biking.
I don't even know how I am going to decide between one of these bikes. As Honey is intended I am not even thinking about the bike but the riding itself. I think of how sick it would be to take the 200 meters bike out and just put in tons of miles on the road. And then I think of the Ronde de Rosey and IronCross and want the cx bike. Its a good problem to have I think. Huge thanks to Rob, Mike, Matt, Patria, Seven, Hup, Honey and the Ride Studio for such a great evening!