D: Here we are again! Another month another musette! Welcome back! Sitting here with Paul Priest, long time employee of Recycled Cycles. Tell me the story on how you came to work here.
P: Well, a long time ago I was working at the UW and saw an ad in the daily for Recycled Cycles.
D: The Daily?
P: Yeah, print media too. Eons ago.
D: Wow, So old!
P: So I went to go check the place out, became a regular customer, moved to Philadelphia for a year. When I moved back to Seattle, I was unemployed and thought, “might as well work at a bike shop” and applied here and got the job and 15 years later here we are.
D: So by that time was it all downstairs? I think around that time that this place expanded into the upstairs.
P: When I started, they had just finished the upstairs.
D: What where you doing in Philadelphia?
P: I was working for a dot com company called beyond books and my wife was going to college at Bryn Mawr. I worked in the science area of the website and it was basically a website for kids to get help for school and links to other resources. Flash games and the like.
D: Interesting! I didn’t know people still referred to companies that had an internet presence as “dot coms” companies anymore. So, as an avid cyclist before the time you had worked here, what drew you in to become a regular customer?
P: The inner tubes were cheap and it was a treasure hunt. It made you wanna come in to see what was new. I bought something probably every third time but it was worth it to get a deal on something. Also I was cheap.
D: So you came here cause they had cheap tubes, you could sometimes get stuff cheaper and that you were cheap?
P: Ha! Yeah!
D: So back then, 16-17 years ago, what was the competition like? What other shops were you a fan of before you knew about Recycled?
P: Probably Montlake Bicycle or the late Velo bike shop on Capitol hill. There was a really cool store called Northwest Cycles where you could get your really fancy italian lugged bikes and also your regular pedestrian stuff.
D: Man, its too bad that all the bikes shops up there thought they couldn’t make money on the hill unless they sold coffee or beer.
P: Pretty much. Back in the day, it was JUST bikes. There where probably like 6 or 7 bike shops in a very small area on cap hill like 15 years ago.
D: And now there are like, 2. Kinda a bummer since people bike there a lot.
So, as a fan of bicycles, what has been you favorite bike?
P: Yes, I had a favorite bike. Dan Jaffe, a former employee of this place, crashed while drunk on his way home. T-boned a wall (chuckle). It was the first bike that I had ever bought here as an employee. It was a Batavus Dutch cyclocross bike that was very dedicated cross. No bottle bosses.
D: Like that bike? (points to Allegro frame in the corner he has been working on for a few weeks)
P: Yes! The it is the idea I am trying to replicate there.
I forget why I lent it to him but I was pretty laissez-faire about it. Like whatever, I work at a bike shop.
D: Did he pay you back in some way?
P: When he left Recycled, he gave me his aluminum Salsa cyclocross frame which I gave to somebody else shortly after.
D: That happens quite a bit here. The passing down of parts or odd frames.
As somebody who has “seen it all” here, what is an overall improvement in the shop that you've seen get better over the years?
P I would say we have less surly employees and more helpful ones than when I started. (chuckle)
D: You can kinda see that trend in our Yelp reviews. We've got much more positive ones over the years. Are there any things you’ve seen over and over again that you just want to tell our customer base as a whole?
P: Keep you tires inflated. Tires lose air. Under inflated tires will damage the tire or tube. Just check them. Also, learn to trim your front derailleur.
D: That's a good one!
P: Yeah you hear so many people on the bike trail riding in "small-small" and just ripping through their derailleur cage. But you know, if your bike is just a black box to you, you probably have other things to worry about. We bike shop employees have a trained ear and most of us dislike noisy bikes.
D: True. Cars are very much “black boxes” to me. There could be little gnomes in an engine for all I know.
As a long time cyclist, what is you favorite type of bike?
P: Single speed or fixed gear. I don’t care what brand.
D: So you dislike cables and housing on your bike?
P: I abhor complexity and not really into the whole, shifter thing. I’m also willing to walk if it’s too steep. But I can’t do flat pedals. I got too used to the feeling of being clipped in.
D: I’m kinda that way too. Feels naked.
P: I do keep 2 brakes on my bike. I’m not into non-safety.
I love the look of track bikes. They are also lighter and less parts to worry about. I mean, after working on bikes all day, I don’t want to have to work on mine too.
D: That’s fair. That’s a common stance among bike mechanics too. So, I’ve been meaning to ask you for awhile, but how was doing the l'eroica ride last year?
P: Really fun. I did the California one, and it’s a big loop. There are many loops for many appetites, but it swings by the ocean and hugs the coastal mountain range. Gorgeous.
D: Well, the idea behind the ride is that you only ride a bike prior to 1987, right?
P: Yeah you have to have downtube friction shifters, no clip-in pedals, lugged steel frames and all that retro stuff.
D: What did you ride?
P: I rode a 1960’s Olmo. It’s as old as I am so I figured it made sense. We have a blue one on the ceiling now but I rode a gold one that was pretty much identical. I also went with a traditional gearing which was like a 52/42 by 14/24. It was a slog. But it was insightful to see how strong theses people had to be back then to do this in much worse conditions. Old bikes tend to have some steep gearing. They didn’t even allow gears on the Tour de France until 1937. The roads were also unpaved.
D: That is true and all, but you have to contextualize these incredible feats of physical performance with how “nonexistent” drug testing was. Nobody was hovering overhead in a helicopter with a HD live stream camera. People would cheat by just buying a train ticket to the nearby town.
P: Yeah! A lot of these riders were drinking champagne all day and stabbing themselves with amphetamine ampules! (Hearty chuckle)
D: Seriously though. One gear? 30 pound bike? Unpaved roads? C’mon. Pretty much asking for drug abuse. Well, thanks again Paul, good to chat with ya!
P: No problem! Thank you for doing it!