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USA Pro Cycling Challenge Moots Factory Tour
SOPWAMTOS - Society of People Who Actually Make Their Own Shit.
I have seen this sticker, the one that says SOPWAMTOS, several times before. Chris Igleheart has one on his tool box, or maybe it’s on the big steel alignment table in the middle of his garage-cum-workshop. A meaningless acronym to some, the truth behind it is something else entirely. When it came into being, it was a statement directed at those people who were farming out their ‘own shit’. But also, more than likely, to the big companies who were stepping all over the little guys when it came to the things they produced. So it might also be seen as a nod to quality, a recognition of ‘handcrafted shit’.
For me it meant something funny, too, a way for people to jab (probably a bit harder than jab) at those who had sold out, gone on to do other things, or just plain couldn't hack it alone anymore. It was a bit of guerrilla marketing to be passed around our ever evolving industry. But every time I have seen this little sticker, it has been stuck to something by someone who really does understand its true meaning.
Finn had one in his car when he worked for Independent Fabrication. He was fiercely animated about it one day when we went to lunch. I laughed at the sticker. The first one Chris showed me was at the North American Handmade Bicycle Show (NAHBS) some years ago. I forget whose booth it was in. Paragon Machine Works? It’s possible. Ross Shafer also produced one of the stickers and waved it around with a gleam in his eye before prancing off into the crowd with a laugh. However you slice it, this sticker means something very real to these people, just one more way of paying tribute to the thing that it stands for. Creating your own products.
And then I see it once more, SOPWAMTOS, while we are having our Moots factory tour. It is right there in front of me as I turn back from glimpsing into their blasting booth. Try as I might, I can’t help but point wildly. Our main man, Jon Cariveau, is speaking and the cameras are rolling. I finally get someone's attention, maybe Greg’s or Jake’s, and I am allowed to pass along what little I do know about SOPWAMTOS. Maybe I am wrong about some of it, who started it, who was there on the ground floor when all this happened, but the only thing I care about is passing along what I do know; this is here for a reason and that reason is because these people care about what they are creating.
I have always wanted to see the Moots factory and the little town of Steamboat Springs it nestles in. The same year that I went to the NAHBS with Igleheart, I went on a bike ride with Kent Eriksen and Katie Lindquist. They were both fierce cyclists, although I knew them only from their Eriksen Cycles booth that sat across the aisle from the one Chris and I assembled. We rode up and over Sierra Grande Road, just outside of San Jose, CA, where the show was taking place that year. It was not until later that I find out this Kent fellow, who had just burned my skinny ass up that hill, was one of the founders of Moots Cycles. A few years later Jon Cariveau filled in the gaps of Moots history when we did this interview for Joe Staples’s bicycle. Jon's passion for Moots (as well as a complete hankering for cyclocross) left me wanting to know more and more about this idyllic little town and factory that Jon had so perfectly described. When the Rapha Continental stopped by there last year without me on the Ride the Rockies tour, the jealously only heightened upon their return.
"Lovely people, lovely bike," to paraphrase Joe whenever he talks about his time on his Moots and the people that built it.
Now it is my turn. We are ambling through their shop, watching their expert staff move gracefully about their work. Each one of them does their best to pay us no mind as we step around them and look over their shoulders. But there is no disguising their pride as Jon describes each and every station with an accuracy that is at times mind blowing.
Standing here in the Moots shop in Steamboat Springs, I see traces of this same pride throughout our own little crew. Maybe it has something to do with the intensity of the adventures of the previous few days. Whatever the cause, pride is all around.
Ryan makes furniture. Beautiful furniture, I've seen it for myself. Sam works his trade so that we may all feast in a sort of bacchanalian way as a brewmaster for Kelso of Brooklyn. James is the founder of a bicycle company called Beloved and these, too, are beautiful, handmade creations. Greg spends his winters on the road for a sport clothing company of another kind (Bogner) but spends his summers working with one of the best landscape companies in town. And Nick Legan and I? Well, we make our own shit too, but we express it through keystrokes and mouse clicks rather than crafting things with our own two hands. Nick has skills beyond the editing desk because you only get to be a great tech editor through experience. Nick learned in the field, having spent a few years in the trenches as a mechanic with some of the best teams in professional cycling. (Readers please note, Jeremy Dunn is a more than handy flower arranger - Ed.)
Maybe Steamboat Springs has this effect on everyone that visits. Who knows, maybe it's the altitude? But if the Society of People Who Actually Make Their Own Shit is looking to set up a satellite office, then I nominate Steamboat and more importantly Moots.