Not that it’s owed, but there’s nothing to hide and we’re all in this together, right? I feel that way. There’s been slight hubub over the new cheapo bike we”re making—the Clem Smith Jr.
First, tho: What a fantastic thing that you care. This is not a corollary to “any publicity is good publicity,” the thing friends say when you’re publicly being called a simon pure labrick. (First one to PM me with the literary reference wins $25 credit, but for the love of god, don’t google it, OK? I know I can trust you. You know I’ll sic my hacker on you if you do…)
Yes, it’s wonderful that you care and are defending lugs and our reputation and strength. Not just PM (different PM than the one above), but no doubt many others. I am not comparing us to Bob Dylan going electric in 1965 and bumming the folkies, but ten worlds away it’s kind of the same.
I recently saw a Salgado photo show, the most amazing photos I’ve ever seen, and I know he USED to shoot Leica and Hasselblad, and I don’t want to know if he’s now shooting a half-the-weight digital bubbly camera with no corners. It’s kind of like that, too.
Here’s the story.
When we started in late ‘94 bikes were starting to get odd and go downhill (from my perspective), but there were still PLAIN bikes at the low to middle price ranges. The racertechnocracy hadn’t yet trickled down, and an affordable bike was likely steel, strongish, and lacked suspension. It may have had a threaded headset, even. And, back then, there were lots of ten year old used bikes up for grabs, so even if the epidemic of complication had taken over by the late ’90s, the good ol’ past wasn’t too distant, and the old bikes were all over the place.
But now, in 2014, the big picture has changed some, and it’s not 100 percent like that anymore. There have been enough decades between the super ’80s and now. The all-steel Stumpjumper Sports and Bianchi Grizzlies and Bstone MB-whatevers have been dumped or collected, and even if you can find one, by the time you spiff it up, it’s now an $800 bike that’s still 25 to 30 years old and needs a paint job. That’s nobody’s idea of a good time.
The point is, YES, lugs are still and always will be the preferred way to join steel tubes, but there’s a bigger picture to address now, and that’s Decent Cheap Bikes. (I use “cheap” as “inexpensive,” not “shoddy.”)
In 2014 there’s a shortage of good basic bikes that are unaffected by racing and fancy technology. Now the entry level and midpriced bikes are just crummier versions of race bikes, and you can see that happening with all widgets (not just bikes), but in Most Widgets it’s a good thing. Cell phones that take better pictures than the Canon G3 digital camera of 2001, for instance. But in bikes it’s a bad thing. On another level it even seems shameful, the way the less expensive bikes seem to hang onto the coattails of the fancies and shout out “see? We’re like them, but more affordable!”
I know about and like Somas and Surlys, and there are others, too. I don’t want to pick them apart to promote CSJ. I want to say, tho, that CSJ will come from a different place, and that place is here, and it’ll be reconIZABLY here—for better or worse, but holy cow, the Clem will be a contender.
We’re told often—like, many times a week, not just “several times a year,” that somebody likes our bikes but can’t afford them. I know they like the lugs. I know that doing a pure tig bike is not the answer for them, and that’s why even the less-lugged Clem will have…lugs. Not as many and not as complex, but it’ll be clearly our bike, and I’ll it’s going to be that desirable in its own way. I won’t blend in with the oldies, and it’ll still obviously be one of ours.
More important, it’ll be a totally great bike for somebody whose budget absolutely stops at less than $1500.
None of our bikes have ever been “market driven” in the sense that we pay attention to trends and try to head them off at the pass. One of the few luxuries (along with headbadges) of being small is being able to ignore trends. Some would say doing so guarantees that we’ll stay small. Let me say that “staying small” is not the goal. The goal is to continue to employ people, to lay a foundation that has a life beyond me so that Will won’t find himself looking for work when he’s in his mid-thirties, unless he wants to. And the goal is to populate the world, even in a small way, with bikes that will still be good in 30 to 40 years.
Those things, I THINK, require that we not be market-driven.
So the Clem will be an odd duck of a bike, and an unlikely bike, but a good one for us and anybody who gets it…and it’s still a way off. It’ll be wildly unlike any other bike we’ve done or that exists today. Anyway…..that’s about it. With the CLEM we’ll be serving riders who can’t get up the do-re-mi for a fully lugged ultra-‘del, but still want something special.
Besides, it’s the decal-letter clarity and the way they contrast at the edges with the paint. You can’t put letter color on frame color just like that—you need “muffler” lines to make it look right. We’ve used dark blue or black a lot, and these years usually do black outside the cream with gold outside the black, and the thin lines there make a good transition, and that’s all part of the look of the bike. It’s also the tube dimensions relative to the tire dimensions, and the saddle and stem height. You don’t shoot for a certain saddle and stem height, but when the bike is right and fits, those things fall into place…and are part of the bike maybe not as much as the lugs, but in the case of CSJ, they neutralize at least some negatory points the low-brow welds might contribute. If an all-steel/all-tig ‘88 MTB scores points for its simplicity, then why not a 2014 Clem, which on of its simplicity, too? And on top of its simplicity, there are details that jump out at you or sneak up on you, which you’ll see.
Did I say this already? Mark, Jared, and Brian picked the colors.
Olivier did the decals and badge. He knows what’s acceptable here, and five years of Swiss design school and almost 20 years of experience have refined his taste and strengthened his opinions.
Here’s a way, maybe the best way to look at the CLEM. Would the world of bikes be better off with it or without it? Would it exist if we didn ‘t do it? (No on that one.)
There will be three sizes and three wheel sizes: 45/26…52/27.5…59/29. So, twenty-six, 650B, and 700C, all with tubby tire clearance. Their may be a Clementine, too.
The SILVER crank is about 9 months off and will be as nice a crank as you’ve seen, as long as we can nail the right finish on it, and that’s not a sure thing by any means. We may throw up our hands and say “OKOK, good enough!” at some point, but whatever the finish is, the crank beneath it will be another jab at the direction cranks are moving, and of course that’s not the point.