Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Upright cyclist springs into action!

As winter turns into the wet, cold mess called 'spring in Chicago,' we here at Drum saw this as a reason to search out some new gear to keep us warm and dry. During our search for appropriately functional and stylish duds we came across a new line of commuter gear that was in the final launch stage. So, we hopped on that rocket and took a ride.

Upright Cyclist fits the bill when it comes to looking good and and having clothes that are functional for the urban cycling environment. When you're riding you need to off-set how ugly that helmet is with something cool... Right!?! The idea of looking good while on the bike has been done a few times, both with success and failure. However, Upright Cyclist hits a nice balance of looks, price, and quality materials that some other commuter clothing lines miss. And, on top of that, the customer service is truly top notch - helpful, quick to respond, honest. You just can't say that for to many companies in this day and age.

So, after two-plus weeks running around in the Damon jacket here's our first impression:
We really enjoy the sharp look of the pleated nylon outer-shell which is filled with soft, warm polortech goodness. The angled chest pocket breaks up the line of the jacket, and is also pretty handy for keeping your iphone 30000 safe and easily accessible. Or perhaps your wallet and metro card if you don't want your drawers to look over stuffed. While the angle has the functional aspect of making access easier, it just plain looks good, too. The brassy looking snap covers are an excellent match with the green color of the jacket, too. Details, people, they're important!

Now that we have gotten our shallow looks-appraisal out of the way, let's talk about the bicycle centric aspect. Long before the launched their web page, Upright Cyclist took the time to ponder the needs of today urban cyclist and it shows in the Damon jacket.  The longer arms allow you to get the reaches, without a chill. The reflective strip on the bottom rear of the jacket will keep you seen at night and the Dual zippers allow you to moderate your temperature while riding. We'd say these are all smart, awesome bike-friendly accents to a super clean jacket, but to top it all it has a tall neck that fits oh so nice and snug and keeps you warm and cozy when it is crappy out.

On the scale of good to bad we'd put the Damon squarely on the good side. It's made well, fits even better, and looks even better than that. The bike appropriate touches make it a great addition to any commuter's fall/winter wardrobe, and you can even wear it any where and not look like a "bike guy".

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Spoke Spotting #3: In The Wild

One of our favorite places to go in our town is Heritage General store (see our recent review for more details). They make a couple of super cool bikes - right here in Chicago! - all of which you can see in the General store any time you like. But, thus far, we have not spotted one in the wild. Well, that changed today as we spotted this F&*king sweet black framed Chief while we were out and about.

Check out the super sexy head badge - not every high end rig comes with one of these any longer. We feel it is a must for almost any bike.

The tall sleek Schwalbe brown rubber is wrapped around a nice set of 700c rims. Oh and don't miss the flipped handle bars with cork grips, yum.

VO sprung touring saddle and hammered fenders help make this a clean AND comfortable ride. One of our favorite details is the powder coated block chain ring... nice touch guys!

Here is a couple photos so you can get the color:

Friday, March 8, 2013

Spring is almost here...

With the snow melting and the temperature rising we decided to take a few photos under the CTA Brown line to celebrate the coming of spring!

Other great blogs: Why I ride and #bikeNYC

Over the long cold Chicago winter we thought it would be great fun to stop and interview the bikers who were sticking it out during the crappy months. At the Drum winter meetings in Appleton, WI, we came up with the title for these interviews: "Slush Cuff." Alas, things have not yet materialized and winter is now at it's end. Perhaps we will give it the old college try this summer when everyone has their go-fast bike out and about.

Another gentleman by the name of Dmitry Gudkov is on the same page with the kids here at Drum. One might say he's working with the same set of paints... although we do get the feeling his camera is bit better than the one at Drum HQ. The beautiful pictures and diversity of reasons for riding make both Dmitry's contribution to Street Blog and Dmitry's own #bike NYC blog well worth a few reads.

So until we get our collective asses in gear here, check him out in order to fulfill you winter-biking whims.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Spoke Spotting #2: Best rack ever?

A bold statement like this makes one think of high end, artisan made, small batch bicycle racks that are worked by hand in a converted 1770's grist mill that sits on the edge of a crystal clear stream in Colorado. But nay, dear reader, this rack was not made in a converted grist mill but here on the gritty streets of Chicago. And though you may wish to call it artisan our suspension is that it was constructed in a basement during the wee hours of morning with a lawn gnome for a helper. Oh, and what makes our collective hearts flutter is that the material of choice can not brazed nor welded - as it is Wood!

Safety first! Rear reflectors are a must on any bicycle toting a wooden rack!

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Q+A with Jonathan Shaun of Nonetheless Garments

Late last year Team Drum sent out a few Q+As to companies that we found interesting or inventive or just down right fun. This short 13 question interview with Jonathan Shaun from Nonetheless Garments is the first in a series of such interviews that we will publish in the 2013 calendar year. Thus, keep an eye on the ol Drum blog for others who were kind enough to spend some time sharing their thoughts with us. Enjoy!

1: For those that are unfamiliar with the term, how would you best describe "cradle to cradle" manufacturing?

A phrase invented by Walter R. Stahel in the 1970s and popularized by William McDonough and Michael Braungart in their 2002 book of the same name. This framework seeks to create production techniques that are not just efficient but are essentially waste free. In cradle-to-cradle production all material inputs and outputs are seen either as technical or biological nutrients. Technical nutrients can be recycled or reused with no loss of quality and biological nutrients composted or consumed. By contrast cradle to grave refers to a company taking responsibility for the disposal of goods it has produced, but not necessarily putting products’ constituent components back into service.

2: You have relocated to California, correct? Why the move and how has this influenced your design aesthetic thus far?

No. We did not relocate to California. I was looking at strategic partners and investment at one time. I found the solution and it’s right here in Chicago. It would have been bittersweet to move from the best city on the globe.

3: I understand that your clothes are manufactured in Chicago; what sort of standard do these facilities need to pass before they produce Nonetheless appear?

I am very strict about all aspects of my business pertaining to responsible engineering. My factory has an open door policy. It’s a family owned business. I consider them good friends. They do mostly Military uniforms – so the quality is amazing. When I first started Nonetheless Garments in 2009; people said my technical menswear could not be done in Chicago. The research and development was a painstaking process and took a long time to get it dialed in. I am well on the way now and proved all those negative creeps wrong.

4: Do you have a Favorite frame builder/bike? If so, why?

Hell Yes I do! Adam from Stanridge Speed Bicycles in Ohio. He built the “Molloy” for me. His innovations are flawless down to every last detail. Everyone should check them out. If you buy a custom bike from him… you will never leave the saddle.

5: Do you see Nonetheless having a continuous line of clothing or do you see each piece changing organically between each manufacturing run?

We will always have the staples. However, I am engineering and developing more products to round out the line for a wider-range. To date this has been a self-funded business. Most individuals don’t realize it’s been just myself running the business for over a year now. My highly talented business partner and good friend, Neil H. Molloy, suddenly pasted away last year of Ammonia. It hit me very hard but I am running on all cylinders and healthy again.

6: Anything new and exciting coming down the line that you would like to share?

We have a lot of potential business news to share but I can’t talk about it now. As for products, I reinvented our Trench Shirt/Jacket. It’s very exciting to see such innovation taking hold. I am a textile geek. We will be innovating there in many ways. We have uni-sex accessories on the way. You will need to follow us to see in real-time other innovations.

7: Other than your eco-friendly manufacturing practices are there any other things you do to help the environment?

I separate my beer cans and bourbon bottles for the homeless to collect and sell. They go and get the cash to live on. It saves waste from the landfill. A win… win.

8: One of the major reasons we here at Drum decided to try out your garments was the fact they were not only made in the USA but in Chicago. Is the plan to keep everything manufactured in Chicago for the foreseeable future?

We are keeping all options on the table. We will always have goods made here though.

9: What do you do for entertainment when not slaving away at Nonetheless HQ?

I am a father to my beloved 5-year old son. Spending time with him is absolutely amazing. I like to cook; it’s therapeutic in so many ways. Of course, riding my bikes and traveling are favorites.

10: Best moment at Nonetheless thus far?

A highly loaded question. Our highly versatile garments have been called the Rolls Royce of Pants and went Alaskan bear hunting for 10 days straight. They’ve been cross-country skiing in Canada through intense conditions. These garments have been through countless city commutes both on and off the bike. They are worn every day inside offices thanks to cutting edge technical attributes. Point; this is working out well.

11: How would you describe your experience with funding a commercial venture through crowd sourcing (Kickstarter)? Instead of traditional investment backers? What did you learn and what advice would you give to other thinking of using such methods to start their business?

I was invited to KickStarter early on before open to public domain. It was mostly all of my die-hard clients that successfully made it happen. So, I think my experience was much different than some others thus far.

12: Best movie of 2012 and why?

I am not a film guy at all. Though, Larry Clark films are my favorite. Marfa Girl was just release on-line only (a first the way he did it). Set in the eponymous Texas desert town, the new work focuses on the culture clash arising from the area’s mix of Mexican Americans, ranchers, border patrol police and a creative scene founded by minimalist artist Donald Judd, who moved there in the 1970s. It’s interesting and Mr. Clark did a good job with it.

13: We can only guess that commuting via bike in Chicago was your inspiration for Nonetheless but give us your view where the inspiration came from.

I started a small Snowboard outerwear line in 1994 and sold it in 1999. Then, I designed private label lines for a few retail companies. Then I went to work as a Marketing Manager for Nau 1.0. After the first Nau went under in 2008, I co-founded a retail shop called Connect in Chicago. There are many problems in the industry and have solutions. It was apparent I needed to start designing, developing, and manufacturing my own line. Since then, I have never looked back.

And don't forget to check out our review of the Nonetheless Dispatch Rider pant and our soonish-to-be released review of their Weatherproof Commuter pant.  Hint, Hint that's it pictured above.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

On the route: Heritage General Store

Upon crashing the mother ship on the north side of dear ol' Chicago, we at Drum were in search of four things:
1: Day Job
2: Bike
3: Bike shop
4: Quality java joint
One and two were pretty easy to acquire, but three and four turned out to be much more of a challenge than we had imagined.
We were not looking for a bicycle shop that was a drop-and-go place, that would do all the wrenching for us. OH no, Team Drum is a bunch of tinkers*, dreamers, and thinkers that like to get dirty... though the thinking ain't always the clearest thing known to man.... What we needed was a shop that had good parts and a friendly, knowledgeable staff of straight shooters that didn't mind informing us that our dreaming and scheming might just add up to a pile of poop.
Now, in the realm of coffee we were looking for a shop that can pull a good shot, heat our milk without scalding it, grinds a quality bean, and has (again) a super friendly staff. Living in a city of 3 million+ you would think that shops like this would be common place, but you'd be wrong. We were.
From the first time we wandered by Heritage, it made us want to stop in. Really, we had no idea it was a bicycle shop when Mrs. Drum pointed out the slick rigs in the window. For all we knew it was another coffee shop with clever signs and and hip employees, but the magic of google would clear this up later in the evening. It was then that we discovered that they loved bikes + coffee, so we decided they couldn't be that bad, and was worth a visit during operating hours.
Upon entering the joint we get a good vibe from the vintage and re-purposed decor. The chicks and dudes working over at the coffee bar, which takes up over 1/2 of the room, are hip, well dressed, and make a mean drink with some tasty beans from Stumptown coffee. Our favorite part is that you get all this magic without being treated like week old gum stuck to their shoe. No, Dorothy, we ain't in Logan Square anymore. As you wander towards the rear of the store you find have the bicycle repair(right) or bicycle accessories(left).

Since we here at Drum consider ourselves outgoing and personable extroverts, we chose to go straight into the fray and talk to the bicycle repair guys first. There we met Arlan (head mechanic), and then Alan (manager) the duo that run the repair side of the Heritage World. Right off the bat we learned that this was a place we could ask stupid questions and not have a 12 year old look at us like we just wet our pants. It is a place that would sell us good parts at a good price and even add the particular item to their next order without making it seem like we were putting them out. A place where one of the techs is also a tinkerer!

The other side of the bicycle department is for the merchandise. Most of the bicycle parts are stored away out of sight, but it is here you can find a nice Abus lock, Nonetheless clothing, racks, baskets,  and many other super sweet additions to your rig. On top off all this fun Heritage's owner, Michael Salvatore, also produces a bicycle made here in Chicago... yep, not only American made but as local as local can get for us Windy City Dwellers! These steeds are simple, clean lined, post-fixie rides and are perfect for those who are looking for something cool but don't want to drop the coin on a fully custom job.

 Now, the next time you need out of the house, need a part, want to get some some work done, a good cup of joe, or just to sit and enjoy a nicely designed space go check out Heritage General Store. Just be warned it may ruin you on other so called bicycle/coffee shops.***

* Drum has a brother blog The Old Speed Shack where we tinkered and explored the ins and outs of the 36hp aircooled VW motor all while holding down a day job in an aerospace machine shop... tinker... tinker...tinker.
***To our knowledge this is the only one in Chicago. This is not to say that other coffee shops don't have bike hipsters as clients that will chat you up on the finer points of a tall bike but they don't have a working bicycle shop in them.
Photos are used courtesy of a little photo studio