Tossing and Tortured 'Till Dawn

I come back to you now, at the turn of the tide.

Friday, December 02, 2005

I just confirmed a beautiful bit of Portland cycling arcana. My bike is a 1998 Schwinn Paramount, hand-lugged 853 steel by the now-defunct Match in Washington. It's a nice ride, pretty and classic, and though it's my first road bike and I haven't spent serious miles on anything else, I love it. I don't have any decent pictures of the thing right now, but it's glossy black with a white downtube decal featuring "Schwinn" in flowing script, and a few tasteful aluminum badges with their star logo, along with "Paramount" in small, gold ghost script on the top tube. Matching, skinny, straight-bladed steel fork, built up with Campy Chorus components (alloy -- there's no carbon fiber on the whole bike) and silver Thompson seatpost and stem.

I like classic steel bikes -- though I'm not old enough to have grown up with them or anything -- and one of the classiest of the modern era are the famous Vanilla bikes, handmade right here in Portland by local cycling hero Sacha White.

A fairly infrequent riding partner has a light blue Vanilla that's really nice, and riding side-by-side with him one cool, sunny Sunday, I noticed striking similarities between the two bikes. I mean, they looked pretty similar, from the script on the downtube to the shape of the seatstays, and we both complimented each other's bikes a few times during the ride. Then I remembered that Dean had gotten my Paramount repainted before I bought it. I thought I recalled him saying it had previously been blue.

To describe Vanilla's massive popularity in Portland, and growing fame elsewhere, know that his frames end up costing around $2,500 for a frame and fork only, and sometimes run thousands more, depending on the level of customization put into it. They are simply beautiful, and when I get better at HTML I'll put a few pictures of them in here. (For now, just go check out the pictures on his site.)

Despite their price, people are absolutely lining up to buy these things. The wait is 18-24 months, and he gets plenty of takers. I mention Vanillas to Dean, one of Bike Central's central players, and how much I liked them. "Oh, dude, didn't you know that about your Paramount?" he replies. "That was Sacha's bike."

Woah.

Pretty cool, eh? There was a discussion recently on Roadbikereview about Vanillas, and Sacha himself, not a regular poster there, showed to talk a little bit about his bikes and his process. I took the opportunity to e-mail him about the Paramount, he replied: " I did own a match made paramount. Those frames are DOPE. I am still trying to work in details from that frame into frames that I am making now...7 years after I owned it."

Man, this is like ... owning Jimi Hendrix's guitar or something. Well, not that cool. But close. And I didn't even know it.

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