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Singlespeed & Fixed Gear "I still feel that variable gears are only for people over forty-five. Isn't it better to triumph by the strength of your muscles than by the artifice of a derailer? We are getting soft...As for me, give me a fixed gear!"-- Henri Desgrange (31 January 1865 - 16 August 1940)

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Old 12-26-05, 05:28 PM   #1
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a lament for momovelo

i know that many people ultimately ended up upset with momovelo due to it's poor execution, but i find that it filled an important role in the healthy spectrum of relatively inexpensive bikes.

they were artful, unique, inspiring, utilitarian, and now it's all gone.

what has happened to the tradition of the artful bicycle? it seems like all of the homage to the french tradition has fled to japan.

i sincerely hope that someone launches a new business in the form that momovelo began. peter white and rivendell can hardly do it alone.
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Old 12-26-05, 05:29 PM   #2
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not familiar with momovelo. care to give some background?
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Old 12-26-05, 05:40 PM   #3
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I was/am under the impression that Kai has a new storefront in Berkeley. He's not doing mailorder anymore, but he's still kicking around. Unless that situation has changed in the last little while...
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Old 12-26-05, 05:51 PM   #4
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I was/am under the impression that Kai has a new storefront in Berkeley. He's not doing mailorder anymore, but he's still kicking around. Unless that situation has changed in the last little while...
As far as I can tell both momovelo and omafiets are gone. The last storefront I knew of has reverted back to an antique store.

Bummer, that was a shop I could just geek out in for hours.
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Old 12-26-05, 06:25 PM   #5
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Mo, et.al. :
Momovelo (and then Omafiets for a few weeks) was a beautiful little bike shop in the classic french tradition. Kai Matsuda was the proprietor and had an incredible eye for velo-beauty. Traditional styles, beautiful parts, great colors, everything done just right to make mid-priced commuter bikes works of art. He sold bikes and parts and also did consulting and repair. His shops were some of the greatest places to stop in and look around. They didn't have much stuff in them, but everything was beautiful and Kai himself was always very friendly and very knowledgable.

Problem was that his passion wasn't making money. It was making bikes beautiful. He started doing some online stuff and had a few bad experiences (missed shipments, general confusion, etc.) He also wasn't super-quick with the turnaround on repairs. His wasn't a shop you went to if you broke a cable and needed it replaced for your race tomorrow. You went to him if you wanted him to find a NOS campy something or other or the perfect chainguard for your 1955 stingray. Lots of folks also didn't know that he had a full time job 'on the side' and was essentially running his bike shop as an after-hours super-hobby.

He sold the Momovelo name/style to a (i think) Japanese company and closed that shop. A few months ago he opened Omafiets on Milvia/University in Berkeley in 1/2 of an old antique shop.

I stopped in and saw him a few times and he was doing repair work and selling omafiets (basically the standard grandma bike.) He was done with internet sales, and was focussing on local work only. He preferred to work only with folks within a 5 mile radius of the shop (he would refer you to another shop closer to your home) unless he had something exclusive, and he started carrying an assortment of locally produced cylcing-related items. I went away for a couple weeks and when I returned (this was maybe 3-4 months ago) the shop was closed.

I hope someone on here knows what happened or where Kai is. He and his shops were small but very significant assets to the local biking community, and he championed an aesthetic that is sorely missing from most of the modern bike world.
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Old 12-26-05, 07:11 PM   #6
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well said.
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Old 12-26-05, 07:32 PM   #7
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As far as I can tell both momovelo and omafiets are gone.
That is a bummer.
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Old 12-26-05, 08:25 PM   #8
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I loved Momovelo when I was living in Berkeley. It was an eclectic mix of awesome stuff.
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Old 12-26-05, 11:58 PM   #9
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I loved the looks of his bikes. He shot great photography of them also. I just hated the reputation he got for his mail order practices.
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Old 12-27-05, 04:50 AM   #10
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I loved the looks of his bikes. He shot great photography of them also. I just hated the reputation he got for his mail order practices.
Agreed on that one, ordering something being told it had been sent, then the place closing, and being told it had never been sent and no comeback since it was closed
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Old 12-27-05, 09:58 AM   #11
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so the moral of the story is, we need someone with better business practices to open a similar operation. surely there's an entrepreneur or two reading this.
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Old 12-27-05, 10:24 AM   #12
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Kai had a great philosophy regarding bikes and if anything, I miss reading his thoughts and approach to bikes.

Anyhow, for those who never saw the site, here are a few photos showing the kind of stuff he'd build up. These were not his best work (there was a cream bike that was gorgeous) but demonstrate the kind of aesthetic he went for.





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Old 12-27-05, 10:27 AM   #13
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That cream bike he photographed with a pumpkin on the front basket was hot. I wish I had the photo.
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Old 12-27-05, 10:29 AM   #14
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those are tremendous builds.
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Old 12-27-05, 10:34 AM   #15
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Found it.


Not really something I usually go for. But I wouldn't mind cruising around on this.
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Old 12-27-05, 10:41 AM   #16
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Here's the cream one I'm referring to, he called it "Royal Milktea", courtesy of archive.org. Not all the photos load but you get the idea and some text.

http://web.archive.org/web/200503200...l_milktea.html

And here's archive.org's cache of momovelo:

http://web.archive.org/web/*/http://www.momovelo.com
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Old 12-27-05, 10:41 AM   #17
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It is sad....he had the coolest stuff. I only saw his online shop. Tre boutique. I wish someone would step up and fill the niche. Hell, I'd do it with some partners!
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Old 12-27-05, 10:43 AM   #18
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http://www.bikeforums.net/attachment...tid=2311&stc=1

http://www.bikeforums.net/attachment...tid=2310&stc=1
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Old 12-27-05, 10:43 AM   #19
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absntr beat me!
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Old 12-27-05, 11:34 AM   #20
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It's an interesting idea, to buy old bikes strip them completely and start over from powdercoat on up. This is sort of what he did right? *edit - looking at the webarchive it looks like he had a source for new frames -anyone know who made them?* To a certain degree I do that in my basement, less the powdercoating, and I wager alot of others here do it too. The key for me doing it was, for a time, having a cheap source for great old frames and parts. Since that place (Portland's community cycling center) changed thier business strategies, elimitating the occasional $5 lejeune and $10 centurion, I'm trying to reclaim my basement and get back to woodworking. I'm left with a basement full of complete bikes that I rarely ride, but which look great.

It's interesting to try to identify what makes a good looking bike from an ugly one. A quick scan of FGG shows that some people have that innate ability to create a beautiful bike and some people just don't get it. Tall people are a bit luckier with their graceful steep frames and us short guys have a bit of a harder time, a betrayal of geometry and the standardization of wheel sizes, but it's always great to see a bike on there that just knocks you over, not with tech or bling but with subtlety and grace.

There are certainly stores around here that fix up old bikes, in a slightly less artful manner, and sell them for more than you'd expect to pay on craigslist or ebay, with warranties and service, I saw a guy buy a really cool cargo bike the other day made from a mtb with a 20 inch front wheel, extended head tube and the 'top tubes' from a mixte shooting from the BB to way out front to carry a platform and I thought, well, this is a pretty good town i live in. I think it was three or four hundred bucks.

But I think without an asthetic or an artsy overtone like momovelo had, you be hard pressed to sell that milktea bike for a grand with any regularity, not that the parts don't warrant it, infact most of his offerings were pretty solid values , I just think that's just a really tough pricepoint. You go a little lower you get Kogs or IRO, a little higher and you may need to start building frames. That's a tough middle ground, the thousand(ish) dollar bike.

I don't know much about 'the french tradition', but like a few people have mentioned, it takes money to run a storefront, or even a website. I think we'd all like to have a shop where we could go in a shoot the **** with the owner for an hour or so over coffee and then buy some tires (what;s the margin on a pair of tires?), but man, who can pay rent on that sort of great customer service? Unfortunately, that's a business model for someone who has retired with means, or it's a side job and a money loser.

Sorry, lost track of what I was saying.

Last edited by thechamp; 12-27-05 at 11:35 AM. Reason: spelling
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Old 12-27-05, 12:17 PM   #21
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It's an interesting idea, to buy old bikes strip them completely and start over from powdercoat on up. This is sort of what he did right? *edit - looking at the webarchive it looks like he had a source for new frames -anyone know who made them?* To a certain degree I do that in my basement, less the powdercoating, and I wager alot of others here do it too. The key for me doing it was, for a time, having a cheap source for great old frames and parts. Since that place (Portland's community cycling center) changed thier business strategies, elimitating the occasional $5 lejeune and $10 centurion, I'm trying to reclaim my basement and get back to woodworking. I'm left with a basement full of complete bikes that I rarely ride, but which look great.

It's interesting to try to identify what makes a good looking bike from an ugly one. A quick scan of FGG shows that some people have that innate ability to create a beautiful bike and some people just don't get it. Tall people are a bit luckier with their graceful steep frames and us short guys have a bit of a harder time, a betrayal of geometry and the standardization of wheel sizes, but it's always great to see a bike on there that just knocks you over, not with tech or bling but with subtlety and grace.

There are certainly stores around here that fix up old bikes, in a slightly less artful manner, and sell them for more than you'd expect to pay on craigslist or ebay, with warranties and service, I saw a guy buy a really cool cargo bike the other day made from a mtb with a 20 inch front wheel, extended head tube and the 'top tubes' from a mixte shooting from the BB to way out front to carry a platform and I thought, well, this is a pretty good town i live in. I think it was three or four hundred bucks.

But I think without an asthetic or an artsy overtone like momovelo had, you be hard pressed to sell that milktea bike for a grand with any regularity, not that the parts don't warrant it, infact most of his offerings were pretty solid values , I just think that's just a really tough pricepoint. You go a little lower you get Kogs or IRO, a little higher and you may need to start building frames. That's a tough middle ground, the thousand(ish) dollar bike.

I don't know much about 'the french tradition', but like a few people have mentioned, it takes money to run a storefront, or even a website. I think we'd all like to have a shop where we could go in a shoot the **** with the owner for an hour or so over coffee and then buy some tires (what;s the margin on a pair of tires?), but man, who can pay rent on that sort of great customer service? Unfortunately, that's a business model for someone who has retired with means, or it's a side job and a money loser.

Sorry, lost track of what I was saying.

The three frame set above are all repainted Steamrollers.

And the milktea frame is a Crosscheck.

No one repainted Surly frames like Kai.

Milktea's a beautiful color. I wish I'd thought of it. Oh, wait, I did:



Kai IM'd me one day and we had a nice chat. He asked me what my 'value proposition' was. Golly, I don't know. Making stuff that people like and shipping it to them when they pay for it? I asked him if I could come by his shop. He never could give me a time when he'd be there.

Must be nice.



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Old 12-27-05, 12:58 PM   #22
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matthew, i love your bikes. really i do. but it's a totally different operation. you sell frames. he sold interesting setups that looked pretty.

i don't mean to suggest that someone couldn't make a pretty, interesting setup out of a kogs frame, but thats the difference, from my meek, bicycle consumer standpoint. (aka your target market)

i have, at multiple times, been very close to buying a kogswell. currently i own a crosscheck with the decals stripped and a "momovelo-esque" build. i guess that says a lot about how i shop. my bicycle is my "third place".
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Old 12-27-05, 01:06 PM   #23
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I never bought anything from him but i used to just look at his bike pics, not just once, like once a week.
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Old 12-27-05, 01:37 PM   #24
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he nailed what i love about bicycle aesthetics and i miss that site. i'm suprised nobody has taken his place with the way the market is now. i would buy from somebody online if they had a fun, well designed and interesting site that wasn't too "busy".
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Old 12-27-05, 02:16 PM   #25
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Matthew -

I almost bought one of the original kustard models when you first had them. But the 135mm rear spacing turned me off. I was excited to hear about the G's but when they came out they were a lot less trackier than I thought they might be.

That said, I am looking forward to the next (trackier) batch, and please, please, please, bring back that kustard.
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