SELDOM HAILED CYCLING HEROES: JOE BREEZE
Do what you love and the money will follow. This is what we’re told. We’re taught to admire the ones who follow their heart. Who flat-out do or make what they love. Then you gotta love Joe Breeze.
In the history of California mountain biking pioneers he’s mentioned in the same breath as Kelly and Fisher. Hell, he was kicking the crap out of Mt. Tam with those guys and beat them all to the punch when it came to producing the first purpose-built mountain bike. There it is up there – the series 1 - with the support beams, trusses and hell, I think there’s a flying buttress in there for good measure. He rode that rolling Calatrava bridge to victory on Repack in its maiden voyage. He did, and made, what he loved.
Then he went to straight, diamond-framed mountain bikes. Hand-built, simple and gorgeous, they were awesome. Hard to find (it was easier getting my hands on a custom Fat Chance Yo Eddy on the west coast) but worth it if you got one. Modern race geometry with the paint scheme of a Schwinn Typhoon – homage, brother. Oh, and while he was at it, he taught a couple other guys how to build frames. Guys with names like Steve Potts and Scot Nicol.
Then, just as the mountain bike thing was really hitting its stride, Joe got a new passion. Twenty years ahead of his time, he decided that bike commuting was of the utmost importance. So he focused his company on purpose-built commuter bikes. They were unglamorous and (frankly) uncool looking – especially compared to everything he made before – but they were functionally brilliant. Smart. He did, and made, what he loved.
He’s recently added some mountain bikes back into the mix, but he’s hung in there with the commuter bikes, adding some new designs but eliminating his folders.
I can’t wait for the world to finally catch up to him and for bike commuting to take off the way it should. Mainly, because I think it’s the right, healthy thing to do. But also because it may make Joe zag again. Might make Joe do something else he loves. Wonder what he’ll make then?
(photos courtesy of the Museum Of Mountain Bike Art and Technology)