The Builder

Thomas Hart

When I was 8 or nine my uncle Chick and aunt Gladys gave me my first bicycle. It was a red “Hiawatha” (a “Traveler” I think) from Montgomery Ward. It was a “big kids bike” and the reach was way too long for me. Of course I desperately wanted to ride it and I inwardly recoiled when I heard the adults in my life tell me: “Oh you’ll grow into it.” I was already up on two wheels and the neighborhood squadron of youngsters spent a good portion of their days on bikes. I didn’t want to be left behind.

I can’t remember the exact moment of inspiration but at some point after gazing at the swept back bar and stem it occurred to me to turn the stem backwards, to face the rider and thus shorten the reach. I don’t know who among my older friends I convinced to secure a monkey wrench and help me do the work but it was accomplished and the Hiawatha fit me much better. Somewhere in the back of my brain this simple solution and its resulting success must have lodged firmly since today, fifty years later, I find myself devoted to custom fitting bicycles to their respective riders.

I want nothing more than to build for a client who desires a fitted, customized, beautiful, practical bicycle.