Rad People Who Ride: Claire Mechtly, Rafael Millán, and Subculture Cyclery
31 October, 2013
True. In one word, that's how I'd describe Claire Mechtly, Rafael Millán and the real people of Subculture Cyclery. Who else would state, "the more I ride, the more I want to ride"? Man, that's deep. This past summer, I somehow escaped the terrors of waterlogged push biking my way through the soggy San Juans of Southern Colorado only to stumble upon the sunny, smiling enclave of Salida, Colorado, officially the best town in the world. It was almost like I was able to breathe again after having ridden for 200 something miles holding my breath. What makes the best town in the world even better? A bike shop like Subculture Cyclery.
Subculture is amazing. It isn't big, it doesn't necessarily have overly ornate, fancy things that I can't fathom affording, but it sho does have soul. Deep soul. Everyone working there, 3, sometimes 4, is awesome and is a real person, a real cyclist, in a real shop. It feels just splendid to spend money there. Claire kindly rang me up and politely smiled as I stood, in a state of shock, reeling with amazement at the lovely shop and wondrous manner that life seemed to carry on there. All right, all right, I should focus more on Claire. Claire is kind, patient, at peace, has real passion for riding, and is friends with another stellar human being, Teresa Garcia, whom, though I didn't know it at the time, I would later be fortunate enough to ride with.
Rafael has already led a life deep and rich in experience, revolving around the bicycle, as you'll soon find out in his responses. His energy is infectious - I was tired, talked momentarily to Rafael, poof! I no longer was tired but reenergized - on life, the rest of the ride, adventure, everything that lay beyond. We quickly figured out that we had a mutual friend, Andy, formerly the buyer at Sunshine Bicycle Center in Fairfax, CA (worry not, he's back in CO now and just stopped by Subculture) and it felt like I was right at home even though I was far from it. In letting me know Andy just stopped by Subculture, Rafael ended his kind e-mail to me by singing off saying, "Pumped to be stoked," and that's really an excellent way to describe Rafael. Few people are aware that they love life and even fewer are excited about it, Rafael is a positive anomaly.
Sometimes things are just right - the weather is warm, people are smiling, your surroundings are gorgeous, life is good. Stumbling upon Subculture Cyclery, I realized just that, life is good. So long as there are people like Jason, Rafael, Claire, and Wade running Subculture Cyclery, then the world is alright, life is good. Enjoy Claire and Rafael's tales - they rip, they ride, they're zen-like in their prophetic wisdom and just make plain sense instruction - they're rad and so is Subculture!
Name: Claire Mechtly
Home Shop and City: Subculture Cyclery, Salida CO
They turned a railroad ice house into a solar-powered bike shop, complete with a high pressure, lovely, hot shower. Tasteful without being too cutesy or pretentious, really a difficult balance.
Favorite WTB or Freedom product:
Or, favorite WTB or Freedom related memory (please elaborate):
Rafael: For many years I rode on a SST-X saddle; man, I'd do anything to keep it on duty until piles o' miles and Carhartt rivets rendered it beyond fixing again. Funny now, every time I see one of them it's like looking at photos of epic rides and good friends... memories are sparked!
Claire: So many! Right now I'm in love with the Monarch Crest and all of its many offshoots. NoCo gravel county roads are really amazing, too.
Rafael: Don McClung's outlaw ride here in Salida, one big 'ol annual epic loop that changed my bicycle life.
Hanging beneath the overhang where Wade offered us a spot to set up our tents, safe from the elements and all. These ornaments of character are part of the stay outside collection - easy, easy, no big ideas.
Background, how’d you get into riding, what kept you going with it?
Claire: When I moved to Fort Collins for college, I didn't bring my car. I just started riding my bike everywhere. I had never really commuted by bicycle before, and I got totally hooked on how fast I could get around and how free and connected I felt. Put simply enough: the more I ride, the more I want to ride!
Rafael: Not sure, I had no “pedaling role models,” no one in my family rode bikes. In the 70's in Mexico City, bicycles were very unpopular among adults. Every single adult I ever witnessed riding a bike was a blue collar worker using it as a tool, of whom many took pride in their rides and their struggle against automobiles. They'd pimp their bikes to an impressive degree of shiny bling-ness and some would sport outlaw signs against aggressive car drivers or harassing cops. In my world, these were the original bike punks. I'd be furious and embarrassed if my non-bike-minded parents would honk at or disrespect them 'cuz in a weird way I saw them as my people. One Christmas I was given a bicycle as just another toy. One rad little unit: Windsor was the brand, a yellow fixie with a checkered banana seat, ape hangers, and no training wheels. A few bloody knees and elbows later, I figured out what to do with it. I never stopped riding bikes and I never went to college; I believe these are the best two things I ever did early on. Somewhere along my miles, I felt I was meant to be a bicycle rider and I saw myself with a bicycle forever. I've been car-free my whole life.
Tube or Tubeless, why?
Claire: Never had a problem with good ol' fashioned tubes until I came to Salida. There are so many goatheads around here, I'm pretty sure tubeless is the way to go.
Rafael: It's all about the “supple traction” of T-lessness!
Rafael owns quite a rad bike, called a Meat Sauce, hand made in Fort Collins where he and Claire moved from prior to Salida. Like his bike, he, too, is rad. Remember when Fort Collins was the #1 town in America? Well... I think Rafael and Claire are onto something
3 most important things to bring with you on a ride?
1. Hydration- I like to mix up a little bit of maple syrup, apple cider vinegar, and ginger into a bottle of water. It's a magical concoction known as switzel.
2. Food- Can't go wrong with fruit snacks.
3. Bike! (duh)
Rafael: Good spirits, friends, goodies to share.
Wrong tires, right bike. Backyard Bicycle Company is Don McClung's handmade beauty factory. Don McClung built early mountain bike frames with Mike Rust, the disappeared Hall-of-Fame Inductee whom The Rider and the Wolf is about. They sold their "shorties" at Colorado Cyclery, which existed in Salida, once upon a time. The shorties had 700c front wheels mounted with mighty narrow Smoke tires, which gets awfully close to being a 29" bike. Fear not, the WTB Nanoraptor was the first 29" tire in 1999.
Craziest thing you’ve seen or witnessed on a ride?
Claire: Last summer, some friends and I rode right past the High Park fire the day it started. We were headed home from a camping trip and there it was, this huge, billowing cloud of smoke. We got so close that we could see the flames just eating up all the pine trees, definitely crazy.
Rafael: Dang, so many funky tales...here's a good one: Back around 2005 while descending on a steep and twisty gravel mountain road during a long winter group ride, I lost it on a tight turn, slid out of control, then flew into a ditch and got knocked out. I wasn't visible from the road, and somehow the timing was such that no one witnessed the accident, so the group carried on without me. I was unconscious for who knows how long. I woke up to find the group gone and the bike and it's handler very damaged: two taco'd wheels and the gnarliest road rash ever- I was bleeding from more spots than I could count. Somehow, I pulled myself together and my bike out of the ditch and started to limp my way down the road, dragging my poor, now bloodied bicycle. The day growing older and colder, little food and water left, several miles to go...Oh,boy.
With my ragged-out clothes, I must have looked like a bike zombie. A waitress from the Pot Belly Diner in the town of Red Feather Lakes drove by, recognized me from earlier that day, and asked what the hell I did to myself and where my friends went. Alarmed and partly amused, she offered to take me anywhere I needed to go, said she just got off work...I hopped in her vehicle and just as I started to feel some relief from it all, I realized she was drinking heavily. Off we went, down those crazy mountain roads- she was driving like she was in a Dukes of Hazzard type chase; I had my hands on the dash and feet pressing against the floor like I was on a roller coaster. She saw me all freaked out and commented, “oh darling, don't you worry, I've been driving these treacherous roads for many, many years, I ain't gonna mess you up any more than you already are.” Then she opened another beer and told me we had just one quick stop to make to pick up her pet at a friend's house. Off of a side road, we pulled up to what seemed like a rustic log castle/fortress in the middle of the woods. Her pet: a massive wolf! Her friends: some hillbillies from hell...everyone was drunk, even most of the kids. They saw I was a mess and decided I needed to clean up, so they insisted I must shower and started trying to get me naked! They were pulling on my clothes while pushing/dragging me into their house, and I started slapping their hands, yelling, pulling my pants back up and my jacket down, one shoe was off...Finally, Waitress-Rescuer showed up and said it's time to go, her wolf next to her showing teeth. As soon as we started flying down the mountain again, the wolf pet started licking blood from the back of my ear...I closed my eyes tight, wanting to cry and laugh loud at the same time, wondering how this whole movie-like situation came to be.
In the end, I was delivered to my friend's house in my original beat-up shape and no less demoralized. Once in the shower, I used one hell of a coarse piece of scotch-brite to get all the dirt and pebbles out of my flesh. The screaming must've made the neighbors think that there was some sort of human sacrifice going on. Good times.
So how would I describe Jason, one of the two owners? Calm. Sums it up pretty well. Knowing is another appropriate descriptor. If you're lucky enough to hand your bike to Jason's meticulous and skilled hands, you know you're making the right decision, you don't need to be convinced.
Most important lesson to teach the groms?
Claire: Stand up and lean back!
Rafael: Being swift, having mad endurance, being rugged and fearless or having style and finesse are all cool, desirable features in a cyclist, but what really makes an awesome bike rider is camaraderie, courtesy, solidarity, and humor.
Left my wallet … (fill it in):
Claire: at home. Can you buy coffee this time?
Rafael: The Wallet Store... never bought one, never lost one!
Wade, co-owner, bottom right, giving the grand tour. This shot is sooo Salida - cruiser bikes, gingham red and white table cloths outdoors, historic railroad era roof line and a pin up esque girl adorned in an American flag sash in the foreground, does it get much more small town America in the best sense of small town America than this? Well, maybe if someone was carrying a homemade apple pie, other than that? Nope.
Anything you’d like to plug, courtesy of WTB’s blog?
Claire: Make sure to check out The Rider And The Wolf, an upcoming film about Mike Rust, the Hall of Fame mountain biker who disappeared mysteriously. www.riderandwolfmovie.com
Rafael: Favorite bike quote: “Life is like riding a bicycle, in order to keep the balance you must keep moving” A. Einstein