Tough conditions? Ideal. Bad weather, long distances, challenging road surfaces? Bring ’em on. That’s the philosophy of Ira Ryan, a small, handmade bicycle builder from Oregon and one of the 29 bicycle artisans featured in The Elite Bicycle.
Hardships and adversity, Ryan says, promote our instinct to persevere and to subvert the creeping twofold menace of comfort and complacency. You relax, you let slip your energies. Stay bright, stay alert, keep sharp. As Voltaire put it, “Work distances us from three great ills: boredom, vice, and want.”
And Ryan certainly is not afraid of hard work both on and off the bike. Riding, for him, especially in extreme conditions, is a transformative experience, almost other-worldly. The more extreme the conditions, the better.
In Ryan’s own words, “Epic is a 20-mile ride in the rain with three flats and lots of mud. Sometimes it’s rain, gravel, climbing, or cookies and coffee in the middle of nowhere. Really, it’s as much about your state of mind as where you are and what you are doing. The rider makes the experience, and the bike is just the ultimate accessory.”
Ryan builds “the ultimate accessory” in his workshop right next to his house. He’s been working on bicycles since the age of 17 and has been building them since 2005 after an apprenticeship at Vanilla Bicycles.
Ryan is weary of becoming too reliant on technology. He says technology is a form of dope. And as more professional riders are beginning to say, Why would you dope?
Instead, he trusts his own two hands. He believes a builder’s hands are the best tools in the toolbox. With them, he can make bicycles that are sleek, precise, graceful, and fast. All he needs is fire, some simple tools, the right materials, and an eye for perfection in order to craft a superb machine uniquely fit for its owner. For him, riding up one side of a mountain and down the other on a bike that he built with his own two hands, using only those simple tools, is his greatest achievement.
This brief portrait of Ira Ryan Cycles was adapted from its full chapter in the new book The Elite Bicycle.
The Elite Bicycle brings together intimate portraits of the world’s greatest bicycle artisans, examining the philosophies, the meticulous workmanship, and the eccentric personalities behind cycling’s most prestigious brands. Their materials and methods could not be more disparate, yet their pursuit is the same: the perfect bicycle.
In chapters featuring some of cycling’s greatest craftspeople, The Elite Bicycle offers up a conversation with the men and women who make the most coveted bicycles. Lavish, oversize photographs and personal interviews invite readers into their workshops to show the melding of old-world craftsmanship with space-age materials in fascinating studios and factories that fabricate superb machines.
The Elite Bicycle is both an homage to the bicycle maker and a collector’s piece in its own right, celebrating the stories behind the greatest bicycles and components in the world.