Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The original Nüt

For many, this is just another mountain bike, with a strait handlebar, shock absorbers, fat tires, disk brakes, and mud splashes. But for Huseyin, his bicycle is eye candy. This is a cutting-edge bike, with a carbon frame that weighs barely over 1000 grams. His designer, Marcus Storck, describes the Rebelion 1.0 as “one of the lightest hardtail MTB’s in the world.”

There are many reasons why this is one of the most desirable bikes available. The quality of the carbon weave, for example, is one of them. I’m not a bicycle engineer, with the mechanics of a frame at my fingertips and wouldn’t know where to start selecting a particular type of carbon fabric. But Storck does, and, as is typical with his bikes, everything in the frame is taken apart, examined, and redesigned. For the production of this particular frame, Storck has taken inspiration outside the bicycle industry and has looked at the automotive carbon manufacturing. This technology allows a combination of lightness, stiffness, and flexibility. In the Rebelion 1.0, the brake mount is integrated in the massive chain stays, thus allowing the designers to make the seat stays a little more forgiving.
Huseyin, of course, couldn’t leave all of this alone, and has added his personal touch by changing pretty much all of the components, from the front end to the wheels and drivetrain. His drivetrain is based on the Shimano XTR, but the crankset is a beautiful Raceface Next SL—675 grams with 3 chainrings! 

The brakes are Formula R1—263 grams inclusive of rotor, master cylinder, and brake levers, according to the manufacturer). 

The wheel rims are DT Swiss XRC330, designed specifically for disk brakes and weighing approximately 330 grams. The fork is by Ritchey Logic. 

The stem is a beautifully sculpted carbon-fiber piece by Zipp—SL 145,135 grams.

At about 17 lbs., Huseyin’s complete bike is lighter than many road-racing bikes. Designed to be extremely maneuverable, it can also compete with many of them, as Huseyin proved one day by rushing down one of the steepest descents in Marin County and passing several road cyclists along his way. He must have felt relieved to have it made in one piece.
Huseyin Guler didn’t start out to be a bike guru. He arrived in this country from his native Istanbul to study business administration. He began cycling late, well into his twenties, and then only on a borrowed bicycle. It was a means of transportation in Boston, where he lived, much handier than calling a cab to go home at night, after work. Boston doesn’t have a reputation for excessive friendliness to bicyclists. Yet for Huseyin, cycling was more than just convenient—it was fun, it was a revelation, and it was the beginning of a new stage in life. So, he didn’t just use a bicycle, he became a cyclist: he stopped smoking, lost weight, logged in 15,000 miles a year, and joined a pro-racing team.
He moved to San Francisco in 2002. After completing his studies, he quit his racing team but discovered early on that wearing a business suit wasn’t really his call and found a job at a bike shop in the Mission District. He rapidly gained a reputation as someone who really knew his stuff, had a predilection for the coolest gear, and understood his customers. He also learned about running a business, actually a bicycle business, and managed the entire shop.

That’s when, in 2005, he decided to open his own.
“I had the idea of the wings,” he says, “because, for me, riding a bike is like having wings.” That was the beginning of BikeNüt, a combination of practical knowledge and deep passion for anything related to bikes.
The beginnings were not glamorous, and Huseyin was his own sole employee, assembling bikes, setting up the store, and dealing with the first customers. But he has expanded ever since, and now the shop is bursting with energy.
BikeNüt sells all sorts of bikes, from road-racing machines to children bikes with 12” wheels. The point of the shop, however, is not just to sell but to provide clients with something entirely unique, something that has been assembled only for them. There are lots of frames, wheel sets, and components around the shop. The front counter displays brake calipers that have been milled from alloys, the lightest cranksets available, handlebars, and all of the smallest components. We see there, as a matter of course, the latest gear. There are complete bikes hanging from the walls, but the overall impression—the correct one, as it turns out—is that complete bikes are there just to be taken apart and rebuilt from the ground up.
Certain manufacturers are popular at BikeNüt, such as Storck, Giant, or Bianchi, for example. That’s only because the people at BikeNüt truly believe in them, ride them, and own them. Now the BikeNüt Umlaut, with its sleek, minimal frame  is part of the lineup. These are bikes that are not meant to maximize profits but to respond to customers’ requests.

For Huseyin, service is the key characteristic at BikeNüt. I remember one of my initial visits to the shop and the free information I was given about the merits of carbon frames, although I had indicated that I wasn’t going to buy anything that day. That was the beginning of my education, and, of course, I eventually went back and bought a bike there.
Every customer is important, and there is no intimidation factor when stepping into the shop for the first time. Buying a bike is a process: people are not rushed into a purchase, they are educated about the range that is available for their particular needs, from the frame selection to each of the components. They also learn that a thorough session, or sessions, spent on fitting the bike to their bodies and their riding characteristics is part of this process.
BikeNüt, for Huseyin, is not a launch pad for some stratospheric enterprise. He hopes to see some growth in the business but doesn't see himself as a CEO, dealing with numbers rather than bikes. His future will be with real bikes, riding them, fitting them with the coolest technology, and also talking to customers, seeing them as people, and educating them.

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