This month, I sat down with Jon who works in our upstairs shop. This interview took place on the Recycled Cycles front room couch.
D: This is the December issue of the musette and the staff spotlight and I’m here with Jon Tamesue, a wrench in our service bay.
D: Jon has been working here for quite a while here at Recycled Cycles. I wanna say six years?
J: Yeah but I suffer from short term memory loss and I'm not sure if it’s six years or I just think that every six years. (patented Jon chuckle)
D: So to start us off, I’m curious about the story on how you came to work at Recycled Cycles.
J: Well, I was a customer here for a long time. Me and my boys used to come in here and you could go on eBay and get expensive stuff but it was a place where I could go and find really bizarre and rare bicycle parts that you read about online but never see…
D: Like what?
J: Like weird CNC mountain bike stuff from the really early 90’s like Machine-Tech or something. You'd come in here and they would either be in the museum and you couldn’t buy them or they would be in the case and you could buy them and they weren't that expensive. I bought my first bike with gears in YEARS here when I first moved to Seattle in 2007. So I was a messenger and all I had were track bikes that couldn't coast. So then I came here and bought that titanium Voodoo. It was on consignment and was about 800 bucks. Later, when Pepper, my daughter, was born I thought I should probably get a job that has health insurance and benefits (chuckle). It was a really, really slow at the time for messenger work. I think I saw my pay go from like twenty-five hundred a check to two grand to one grand to a hundred and then the last check I got was for $250. So I was like, what else am I good at? I'm good at fixing bikes.
D: Indeed you are Jon. So, You worked at the Mobius bike shop before you worked here?
J: Yeah. I was just building track bikes and once you've built one, you've built them all. It was Taylor’s old shop in an alley in Pioneer Square. It was so great that I could work a full messenger shift and then we would open at 5:00 and I could just go wash my face and put on dry clothes.
D: Was Taylor a messenger too? Is that how you know her?
J: Taylor has been a messenger and that’s how I met Shido, who used to work here. And Shido was good friends with Ted, the Recycled Cycles manager at the time. And so when Pepper was born I looked for a mechanical job and man, I was desperate. Nobody was hiring. It's so funny because now we need more really good people and we can't find them. But at that time, six years ago, every shop was full of the best help they could get. So I finally got a call from Performance bike of all places and they were like, “you got the job!” and then a day later, Ted said to come in for a build and I got the job here.
D: Didn’t you put the fork on backwards?
J: Yeah I had super broke, not-sleeping-at-all dad brain from having a child to take care of. (laughs)
D: I guess that speaks volumes of your mechanical skill…well, coming from a messenger background, I know you’ve had many bikes. What has been your favorite bike to ride or just possess?
J: My favorite bike of all time is beat to crap, Redline Monocoque aluminum, 26-inch wheel mountain bike I rode today. And I love it because it's exactly my style. It's totally Mad Max and it also it hearkens back to a time when there was a specific clique of messengers who were riding single speed mountain bikes with 700c track wheels. But there is also like four dead messengers' stuff on it. Atom was a guy who died, that top tube pad was his and a bunch of these other boys that died in an avalanche. These Fleet Foot messengers went on a hike in the spring and got snowed in and died. It was super tragic. Those guys' tags are on the bike. The bike has been passed around a lot of Fleet Foot messengers too. It's got a lot of sentimental value. So even though I'm willing to sell my custom titanium track bike to Matt Face, I would never sell this one. It’s a living monument. I’ve rocked this bike in so many ways. I rocked it fixed gear for a while in Seattle, just using my foot on the rear tire to stop. I just bought cheap shoes from the thrift store every week. I mean, you gots to have fresh sneakers. And everyone is like “that dude's a psycho”.
D: Yeah, you are pretty crazy. So I’ve notice while riding with you, you constantly scan the ground and have frequently come upon things on the street that have been pretty cool. What has been the best thing you’ve found on the ground?
J: Oh yeah. I was the guy downtown looking everywhere for several years. I’ve found all sorts of stuff like a hundred dollar bill, MP3 players, wallets. With wallets I try to return them to people though.
D: Yeah and on a bike you can actually pull over and pick the thing up. In a car, you are so much more cut off from your surroundings.
J: I've found lots weird stuff too riding through degenerate parts of town. You'll find these little clearly crazily constructed things, like this little drug shrine of cigarettes or a pile of wet clothes and like, a bent shopping cart. Just crazy stuff.
D: Yeah they are like these secret Easter eggs that you get to discover!
J: The city totally unlocks itself to you. To me, it’s the equivalent of how if you road trip, you find parts of America that no one else gets to see. Like this big concrete dinosaur that's a cafe or like world's biggest chicken egg or whatever. You don't see them if you just stay in your town. And being a cyclist in the city, you see wild stuff.
D: Very true. So working at the gutter of bike shops, in the sense that we can fix what no one else will touch, what has been the craziest bike you’ve had in your stand?
J: Well, there's this one guy who came in and said his brakes were “not working.” But when you actually got in close, all the cogs on the cassette were cracked in half, the chain was twisted and kinked in multiple spots and the wheels were missing most of their spokes. He also had broken off his cantilever posts.
D: Just snapped off the fork?
J: Yeah straight Tom Brokaw (Broke-off). He had taken a sheet metal screw and basically forced it into the hole where the cantilever post had been. I couldn’t believe it. Like, you can't think that that screw is a bike part from a bike shop. So I ended up just fixing his whole bike and was basically like, look, here's how it works and here is your bike that now can stop.
D: I do see you help out a lot of those types of cases when they come in. And it can stress a guy out but I commend you for it. Alright, last question, who is your favorite cyclist?
J: Jan Ullrich! Because during all of the doping scandals like Festina and Dr. Ferrari, this guy tested positive for ecstasy. Ullrich is dominating the sport and winning stages in the Tour de France and he shows up to the beginning of the pro season, overweight and sweating, just fueled by pure willpower. You see this dude grinding up a hill where everyone else is like Fleet Foxes. Just dancing up the hill and Jan is sweating with his jersey unzipped. He's kind of like that just by sheer willpower alone he's keeping up and during the doping controls everyone else is getting tested for testosterone and growth hormones, he gets popped for a party drug. What a class act.
D: Wow, that’s pretty wild. I didn’t know that. Alright last question for real, who makes the prettiest bikes? I know personally, I would say Firefly bikes out of Boston. They are incredible.
J: That’s crazy. I was just gonna say Firefly. I think they have been making the best looking bicycles in the last 10 years.
D: There is so much beauty in that raw ti simplicity. They convey a simplicity that I love about cycling in a refined visual way.
J: It’s really such an amazing spectrum of colors you can get with ti and it’s what I’ve made rings and knifes out of in the past. It’s also fun to hit with a torch and get a real beautiful spectrum of colors to come out like, beautiful indigo and deep blues.
D: Well I think we’ve been here after hours long enough and I’d like to get home so that concludes our Staff Spotlight. We’ll have another person next month!
(edited for hilarity and length. Pictures from Instagram)