Darien: Back again with another installment of our Musette and and that means another interview here with Travis Buck, also affectionately called Bavis Truck. How are you doing?
D: You have been here for a while now which might surprise some people since you have been a downstairs mechanic for as long as I can remember…
T: Right. I started immediately after Doug (a previous downstairs mechanic) left. I remember when we left there really needed somebody to fill in so that was pretty straightforward.
D: How long have you been here at Recycled?
T: I think, 5 years?
D: I think you were hired right before me, along with Jon…
T: Jon was here before me for a while.
D: Given how small of an operation Recycled is, what led you to work here?
T: Well, I’ve been in the bike industry for a long while and I found myself in Seattle and was working at a Velo bike shop with Annie and Ryan (past and current employees). Of the people I'd met in Seattle, I really resonated with them. So later, I went to Bikesport in Ballard and Annie and Ryan had started working here at Recycled. So when Doug left, Ryan said I should come in for an interview and I did and worked here right after. A large part of why I decided to work here was because I wanted to work with Ryan and Annie. When I was in Ballard it felt like a different city. I really should have come with them rather than go work for Bikesport. Yeah, and being there for 2 years was enough. It wasn’t a bad place. But it just wasn’t the vibe I was looking for in a bike shop. But when I first came here I really felt like everyone was on equal ground. First day, and I saw Steve working on a bike while I was working at a nearby bench. Like "wow this person is just doing what needs to be done and wasn’t above getting his hands dirty". Also, you get hassled hard for not doing a good job here. But good hassling. From friends.
D: Yeah! I like that about Recycled because you feel like everyone is working together for a common goal and treated with equal respect. And it’s funny you mention that since on my first day Steve was working on a bike while Skip gave me the tour of the place. He really just does everything that needs to be done because he really cares for this place and it shows. Such an important and sadly rare quality in retail environment these days. So as a mechanic, you see a lot of bikes and I like asking mechanics what sort of inventive setups they have witnessed. Like a cable routed around a seatpost or something.
T: Well, there is the “crazy-but-it-works” thing of tying a string to the end of you fender to keep it upright and that's kinda odd looking but not really too crazy or anything.
D: Yeah! It works, right?
T: (Thinks deeply)
D: I mean, when I asked Mike last month, he had a tough time picking out a stand out occurrence because they are so many things a day that it’s hard to pick one out. He’s just numb to it now.
T: (Chuckle) Yeah I guess! I mean you’ll typically see people use a wrong bolt or something or some random strap to lash something together. Just all around “ingenuity”, I guess. Like, "You rubbed a hole in your chainstay but didn’t have any wear on your shoe? Nothing set you off?"
D: Yeah, more than once I’ve dealt with somebody who tries to warranty a shoe because the cleats wore out or something. Pure madness. Well, to educate and avoid those scenarios, have you ever wondered what you could tell the “customer” as a whole? Like, is there anything simple that people overlook when maintaining their bike?
T: Yeah for one, I wish I could educate more people that your front brake is more powerful than your rear. I’ll see a ton of people come in with rear brake pads that are cooked with fresh and clean front pads. And another would be to just put air in your tires.
D: Enough air. Just so you aren't smashing you rim every pedal stroke.
T: People need to know that just because you put air in them once means you can’t expect them to stay inflated. The deflate factor is different than your car since the volumes are different. It would be great if the industry could step in and help educate people on the common misconceptions with bikes like these. Like, maybe how shifters work or "here's what to expect from your bike and what's normal." Or that the saddle can move or you can get different stem lengths. I suppose we do that here at the shop and tell people what sort of maintenance to get. Just nothing like high budget and organized. Attention grabbing.
D: I wonder what that would look like in action.
T: I guess Diamondback did something like that with their direct to consumer bikes. They had instructional videos you could watch and how to build the bike, not just “here are the five tools on the side of the box”. That was really good.
D: Oh yeah! I think that last Diamondback I sold someone here came with a CD. If your computer had one of those “CD-ROM” drives anymore, you could play some videos about how to build and ride the bike, instead of just going to Youtube.
T: Yeah people love those short videos.
D: I think the bike share we have now does help normalize biking into our culture. Speaking of, do you hear about how we are getting electric Lime bikes in a few weeks?
T: No. Oh man, I worry that it will cause people to be more reckless with them like, bombing huge hills fully e-assted. I suppose they will be throttled down and could probably sense how fast your going and limit you're top speed via GPS or something.
D: Yeah I imagine they wouldn’t just zoom up to 40 no problem. All twist throttle!
T: Electric bikes are cool but if you can, you really should just ride a regular bike. You’ll be much happier for it.
D: Totally agree. Worth that effort. Ok, for my favorite question, who makes the prettiest bikes?
T: Well, I’ve always had a thing for Richard Sachs bikes. They are very traditional and minimalist and he’s pretty much made the same type of bike in the sames style, in the same color, the same way. He has finally branched out with the recent collaboration with House Industries to do some other colors though. I just think it’s crazy too that he makes those lugged steel, rim brake bikes that cat 1 racers will race on and still place.
D: Yeah, his style really exemplifies the “traditional refinement” mindset well.
T: His frame painter, Joe Bell, is an amazing painter and really does an amazing job where the paint is just perfectly laid down and you can see an unbroken shine line down the whole top tube. Yeah, super nice.
D: Mmhmm. Yeah that looks real good. Branching from that, as Mike’s favorite cyclist, what is something that unifies all of your bikes? I know you have a bunch of bikes and I bet there's something that you could say about them that they all share.
T: Hmm, I guess cable and housing is really important to me. I’ve met bunch of mechanics that seem to think of it as unimportant or trivial but It’s something that you can put a lot of care into. For example, I’ll use that Jonnisnot that Sram makes for all my bikes cables and housing. It allows you to have buttery smooth brakes for like, five years in crappy conditions. It’s really worth the crazy amount of toxic warnings all over it.
D: Isn’t it just silicone or something?
T: I think, but it really just protects the cable and creates a lot less friction. It’s sad how common it is to overlook flushing the housing in order to get shifters or brakes to work and feel much better.
D: I know for myself at least, because it’s such a gradual build up, I often ignore it until one day I decided to change them and it feels like brand new shifters. It’s just so gradual.
T: Oh, as for another unifying thing, I don’t have any accessories on my bike except for 2 bottle cages. No bags or GPS or power meter or anything. I just really like them to be clean. I don’t have any bikes with racks. For trips, I’ll just put large bags on a road or cross bike then take them off as soon as I got home. They just feel and look best when unencumbered. I mean, like some Rivendales with matching bags and leather bits can look classy but it just isn’t my style of class. Oh! And another thing, I really like tubular tires a lot.
D: You have them on all your bikes?
T: No, but I have them on three of them and I just have a lot of respect for them. I think they should be more popular.
D: Makes sense, you do get a softer ride with them. Well, thanks again for taking the time to chat with me Travis!
T: No problem!
(Edited for clarity and length)