A faint ribbon of color across the sky indicates my proximity to a very great thing. Descending into Los Alamos, NM, I nervously anticipate meeting the great Tarik Saleh. His reputation precedes him– his accolades include an eponymous bicycle club, a mustache to write home about, and a great passion for bicycles. He possesses many unusual and collectable bikes, and rides a few of them daily, all of which I know from his blog Moscaline. But from my visit I have seen another side. He also has a curious compilation of rusted, dusty, and busted bikes and parts, including a 24″ Surly Large Marge wheelset with 2.5″ Maxxis Hookworm tires without a bicycle attached. A lugged Diamond Back Ridge Runner waits for the next rainstorm to further its patina. Vintage TA cranks gather dust. There are more than a few Paragon Machine Works chainrings with 60 or more teeth from the nineties, beautifully machined; it used to be that these were needed for downhill riding, he says. Several Kelly frames suggest a connection to the builder– ahh, he worked there for a bit– but one in particular catches your attention, as you catch yourself saying “holy shit!”. Have you ever seen an 83cm road frame? This one was built for the center of the Golden State Warriors, yet when he saw the odd geometry he asked for a new frame which looked “more normal”. The second iteration was designed with a sloping top tube to meet the seatstays. The resulting frame required a very long seat post, but apparently satisfied the customer. Tarik has plans to adapt this frame with a kidback tandem crank kit to fit his six foot frame. The result will be a very elegant tall bike. The seeds of many good ideas are omnipresent amongst the clutter of bikes in the carport, in the closet, in the basement, and in the backyard.
Tarik meets me half-way up the hill out of town, slogging along on a singlespeed Pugsley with really soft tires, grinning ear to ear. Meet, greet, how’s the ride? Nice day, eh? Decide to get a coffee and a burrito, pointing tires downhill, down singletrack and doubletrack behind buildings and between streets. Los Alamos is carved out of the hillsides and canyons, and dirt trails are scattered all over town. “Most days when I have a a few extra minutes I commute on these trails. In the winter, I ride the Pugsley”, he says. Los Alamos is at 7,320 ft, so winters typically include a little snow. It’s been a dry year.
There are many bikes that some of us would be thrilled to ride including a Miyata 610, an early-eighties Trek road frame, a P/R Kogswell for 700c wheels, a steel Black Sheep 29er styled like a vintage cruiser, and a Raleigh Twenty with upgraded alloy components. But, there are others that nobody wants. Somehow they have made their way to Los Alamos– situated on nearly a dead-end road without a proper bicycle shop– and when they come up for sale at a good price, they end up in Tarik’s hands. For now, he’s running a low-budget nursing home for curious old bikes– a geriatric circus– and like people, some of these bikes have had a tough life. Tarik, thanks for caring.
Tarik’s daily riders include a Surly Big Dummy with Big Apple tires and a single speed Pugsley. Kelly frames outnumber any other genre or manufacturer, except perhaps the number of singlespeed bikes. The 700c Kogsewll has never ridden well with a from load, and is soon to be replaced with an Ocean Air Cycles Rambler frame. There are more than a few “cruisers”, there is a crunked-out kids bike for an adult rider, several folders in questionable condition, a tandem, a his and hers pair of purple Schwinn frames, and one dynamo headlight with a custom frame attachment made of an old Bicycle Research cone wrench. This is a nutty place. I couldn’t stop looking.
Join the Tarik Saleh Bicycle Club, and follow the rules!
1. Ride bikes.
2. Try not to be an ass.