This is my comment, my counterpoint, to the puff piece circulating about steel’s return to pro racing. Before I start and then end this quickly, let me state that I’m not nostalgic, nor am I part of the energy flow that’s trying to reverse engineer technological trends, manufacturing advances, or markets – especially markets. The material, steel, had its time, and it lasted long. But that ship started sailing in the 1980s and by Y2K it had sunk. Yeah. There are pockets of makers who stayed. Some, but few really, came later. But the legions of trained men on whose shoulders the steel and handmade “thing” was carried for generations – they are dead. Their sons didn’t want to fill the empty shoes. Their brands, if they even continued, rolled into the present in order to profit. In one tsunami of a zeitgeist change, different (and better, and more efficient, and cheaper…) ways of doing the same thing replaced what was. Bicycle frames were once made. Now, like almost everything else, they’re manufactured. The future happened.
Outliers exist. Mavericks and rebels and naysayers exist. What doesn’t exist is the workforce and mindset needed to make this week’s news story come true. The corner we stand on is small, and really needs no defending.
Steel never died. Fine bicycle making never died. People will still go to the bench daily and make things to the best of their abilities. And the men and women who pin on numbers for a living will be across the street where they’ve existed for many, many years now. And so will the zealots whose purchases are tied to last Sunday’s race results.