This is Charles Barrett. He was at Witcomb Lightweight Cycles when I arrived in 1972. I was 18. He was my age, maybe younger. Charles was one of the primary framebuilders. He wasn’t a racer or a rider. He did have skills at the bench. As a teenager, Charles took a job at Tanners Hill, watched as Barry and Jim made frames, and eventually was given the responsibility of filling orders.
My vice was across from Charles’ table. All day long I’d glance over and try to pick up whatever I could. Study his body english. Watch intensely as he brazed a frame section in the hearth. I tried imagine Charles’ thoughts as he whaled on a lug with his hand files. I wondered about his inspirations. And if he would want his name on the down tube some day.
Charles was pragmatic about his role. Everyone there was. Making bicycle frames was a job. Labor. They toiled to make each one beautiful. But craft was an afterthought. It was also a term I never heard used at the shop. These men were working for a paycheck, not bleeding for their art. This is a lesson I took home with me later in 1973 and never forgot.
All This By Hand