When he joined BikeNüt a few months ago, John-Paul Rutledge, or J.P., as he is usually known, bought himself a brand new bike, a Giant TCR Advanced. His previous road bicycle was a top-of-the-line machine from a well known brand, the same used by two top G.C. contenders in this year’s Tour de France. J.P. seems much happier with his new bike: “It’s stiffer, more comfortable, and costs about thirty percent less than the other one,” he says.
J.P. grew up in Charlotte, NC, and has been riding bikes since he was 8. He rode BMX bikes with a group of similarly gravity-defying kids of his age, discovering daily new ways to get hurt. He had an epiphany during the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, when he watched the first mountain-bike competition. He began racing mountain bikes at 15. Once he rode with one of the legends of the sport, Ned Overend, an athlete who doesn’t let trivial hindrances, such as advancing age, get in the way of his racing.
J.P. finally yielded to his karma and got his first job in a bike shop in 2000. He moved to San Francisco four years later and began road cycling in 2006. “I hated it,” he exclaims, remembering his first ride to the Marin Headlands, a kind of rite of passage for any self-respecting, local road cyclist. Yet his interest in road cycling took hold. He worked at another bike shop in the Mission district, and rode on a Colnago bike with Shimano DuraAce components.
J.P.’s life is not just about bikes. He is married, has graduated from the San Francisco Art Institute, and used to work as a graphic designer for Specialized bicycles. But he had his fill of designing decals and got a job at BikeNüt. He still does some consulting for a few clients, however, and devotes the rest of his time to art. Cycling is his passion and, thanks to his ongoing practice with mountain biking, he thinks nothing of riding for 100 miles across Marin County on his days off.
By BikeNüt standards, he has done little to transform his Giant. J.P. likes the way the bike looks, such as the shape of the seat post, which increases comfort without detracting from the overall stiffness of the bike. The riding quality is very smooth, he feels.
He has installed a set of Revl brakes, produced by The Hive, a Bay Area company based in Petaluma. The carbon-fiber calipers exert a gradual, but firmly modulated braking force on the rims. They are light, strong, and very understated on the outside—they inspire confidence.
For the drivetrain, he employs the Shimano Ultegra group that came with the bike. They are exceedingly reliable in the most brutal situations. He only changed the pedals to DuraAce ones.
He likes his new job at BikeNüt: he enjoys the people and the constant banter that goes on behind the scenes. He is laconic, with an occasionally wry smile. I’ve noticed he responds swiftly whenever he becomes the target. He appreciates the deep pool of knowledge and the culture of constant innovation that pervades the shop. “I learn every day,” he says. But J.P. is a man of principle and likes mostly being surrounded by people who are interested in what they are doing, more concerned in individual riders’ needs than in just selling bikes. He fits very well in this culture.