Hanging a shingle as a framebuilder in a place with as rich a tradition of manufacturing these blessed conveyances as the Boston area almost seemed like something of a foregone conclusion for me. Spending any amount of time immersed in the cycling culture of this town you are sure to meet a number of people with a hand in fabricating bicycles, something about the nexus that exists between the study in the institutions, the connectedness to the roads and trails of the beautiful New England country side, and the tradition of industriousness unique to here just makes the manufacture of the most efficient means of transportation ever invented logical in a line reaching all the way back to Pope Manufacturing. So many of my neighbors I count among my friends have plied the trade in some way, either working for Seven or Independent Fabrications lately or Fat Chance and Merlin a generation ago or having started a brand of their own like Geekhouse, Cantabrigian, Royal H, Firefly….. The list goes on and continues to grow. This saturation is a double edged sword, there is something of an allegiance among those that take on the quixotic task of doing themselves what an Asian factory could do for less that makes procuring an OX platinum top tube at a moments notice no more of a hassle than asking the next door neighbor for a cup of sugar and there is sure to be someone at hand that understands completely the conundrum of metal joinery you are gesticulating and grunting about, at the same time the local clientele is so awash in choices of friends to support with a sale that there doesn’t always seem to be enough to go around. Standing out in this kind of crowd sometimes feels like a contest of who can make the most noise, whether it be a write up in the taste makers press or a paint job that’ll turn all the heads, to be in this I’ve felt I have to generate a certain level of volume to get noticed. Failing in the pretty picture category I’ve been haranguing here as one part P.T. Barnum & two parts Lenny Bruce for years with limited success.
Among those that I’ve met among the fraternity of craftsmen and marketeers that comprise the bike industry here the one that is in my thoughts the most the last few days is the one that I’ve always known as the quietest. Without ever seeking the limelight Brian Kelly was satisfied to let his actions do all the speaking for him. Whether it be boosting out of a backyard quarter pipe, machining and tacking a handful of impeccable frames a day for Independent Fabrications, or making the best BMX bikes never to be badged as anything but Humble there is little he leaves unsaid and in his presence I’ve always enjoyed the comfort of words not being necessary. An errant footstep and fall has lately stopped Brian Kelly in his tracks with a Traumatic Brain Injury, it is in his honor and in the hope that he can recover that I will be doing my best to emulate him by shutting the fuck up and making something.