Rick Hunter is a guy of few words – which makes an interview a little challenging. His bikes (and his slingshots) really do his talking for him. When I visited last month, after dodging redwoods on the road up from Santa Cruz, we talked about a few interesting bikes he had on hand…
BIKERUMOR: What do you think about the fixtures that are coming out?
RICK: Aw, they are awesome. I wish I had the money to buy one. I wish I had started on one of those, definitely. On my fixtures – you can do a bit more on them, build a wider variety of bikes, and not even bikes, other stuff besides bikes on them. All the pieces unbolt and you can set them up on different axes. Off this table or off these beams. A little cargo bike – you can’t really build one of those on an Anvil
BIKERUMOR: Do you think that gives people an unfair advantage… there are really nice fixtures for frame builders now, there didn’t used to be so many.
RICK: Yeah, when I first started there wasn’t really anything like that. There were a few, but nothing that sophisticated. No mitering systems or anything like that. Now if you have ten grand or something, you can just get into it right away, now. But that’s just a small part of the whole frame-building process.
BIKERUMOR: How long have you been out of this spot here?
RICK: Six years if I had to guess, maybe seven years. So this one didn’t really get away from me, but it’s kind of a crazy old bike.
BIKERUMOR: What… is it?
RICK: Just a single speed mountain bike, 26in wheels, I built it a long time ago. And I rode it a lot too.
BIKERUMOR: With the twin tubes and everything. It’s a little twisted too… is that on purpose?
RICK: Twisted? Oh, yeah, it’s kind of organic for sure. There aren’t a lot of straight lines. The head tube and seat tube are straight with the bottom bracket.
BIKERUMOR: Hey, man, however you get there. When did you build this?
RICK: Umm… mid 90’s?
BIKERUMOR: What’s it made out of? Why the twin tubes everywhere?
RICK: Just chromoly. Straight gauge chromoly. Because I’d always wanted to make a bike out of one continuous piece of tubing. This is kind of the closest I ever got to it. I rode it for few years, for sure. Did a bunch of single speed racing on it. Took it out right after the first 24 hour in Moab in the single speed class. That’s when the Crusty Cups were happening in NorCal.
BIKERUMOR: “… Crusty Cups?”
RICK: An outlaw single speed series.
BIKERUMOR: How did you have it built up?
RICK: 26in wheels. I had this unusual mismatch of crappy parts. I had an old Fat Chance box crown fork on it for a while. And then just some cantilevers I think. I think I put those cable stops on for gears… I stopped riding it a little after that point. I remember one Full Moon Derby I crashed into a ditch… I think the front end is a little bent on it.
BIKERUMOR: That’s so cool. Do you still have the first bike you built?
RICK: No. When I was 21 I moved from Marin down here and I tossed it. Got rid of a bunch of stuff. Yeah, I regret that one, that’s for sure. I don’t have a lot of my old stuff, I usually just give it away or move it on.
BIKERUMOR: What was it?
RICK: A cyclocross bike. I was 19 or 20 [years old]… 23 or 22 years ago.
BIKERUMOR: Why did you build a cyclocross bike?
RICK: Cyclocross bikes weren’t really available, a production cross bike wasn’t really available at that point. And being tall, I always needed a custom bike.
BIKERUMOR: If you always needed a custom bike for riding, how were you getting your bikes before?
RICK: I had a custom Wicked Fat Chance for a while, a 23 inch one. I had a custom Slingshot for a while. That’s what I had. I had an old WTB Trek- that was too small, but at that point, I just started building my own bikes. I went through trade school as a machinist and a welder and then I kinda picked it up from there. I was always working at bike shops since I was a kid.
BIKERUMOR: Did you ever work under anyone else?
BIKERUMOR: So you just went for it?
BIKERUMOR: How many people have you had work under you?
RICK: Quite a few at this point, I think Todd is the only guy that’s really started his own thing. Taught this guy Matt who turned into an Engineer, a BMX kid. Darren. Charlie Colletti helped me out once or twice… four or five guys.
BIKERUMOR: So your first bike was a cross bike. You wanted a cross bike. Couldn’t get a cross bike.
RICK: The first bike took forever to make. I built it in a friend’s garage. I spray painted it and I rode it, I rode it for a long time, actually.
BIKERUMOR: Did you find yourself adding to it? Playing with it?
RICK: No. This happens to me all the time- by the time I’m actually done with something I’m kind of sick of it, I want to do another one because you think of all the things you could have done differently and you see all these tweaks here and there.
BIKERUMOR: What was the cross bike after that one? Or were you over cross also?
RICK: No, no I’m more and more into cross all the time.
BIKERUMOR: You still build a ton of cross bikes?
RICK: Almost more than anything, that’s for sure. I sponsor a little cross team too in San Francisco. Fresh Air Cycles, a bike shop up there.
BIKERUMOR: For the first bike, where were you getting tubing, and dropouts?
RICK: Henry James. They make lugs and they are a distributor for true temper and they’ve always been very approachable for new builders. They are still in business today. Nova Cycle supply was around too, just a distributor for bike tubing. Plus my buddies were into building garage bikes at the same time.
BIKERUMOR: So you did have resources.
RICK: Yeah, I wasn’t completely out in the open.
BIKERUMOR: Were you jerry-rigging fixtures?
RICK: We actually picked up Bernie Mikkelsen, a framebuilder down in Emeryville or Oakland. He made a few jigs and I picked up one of those jigs from City Cycles in San Francisco who got it from a framebuilder across the way. So they had this jig just sitting in their basement for a long time and then… that was a definitely a big part for me to start building bikes.
At this point, Rick brought out two bikes for discussion.
BIKERUMOR: So what’s this guy for?
RICK: For just kicking around. Shit kickin. 26+ The wheels actually measure 28in. Seems like a good size to me.
BIKERUMOR: I mean, like, it’s a big bike, but it’s to scale.
RICK: 29er+ just seems so big. Just a lot of wheel to push around. That’s my yoke and my new chain tightening system. So… one bolt, this is it, that one bolt slides it back and forth. The rear end comes off too. There is a coupler is there. For shipping, traveling, touring and stuff.
BIKERUMOR: How much adjustability is built into that guy?
RICK: 7/8 of an inch, which is quite a bit, actually. You can get away with ¾ of an inch. Definitely enough for a chain link.
If you have a freewheel on the both the front and rear wheel you can change the gears back and forth. It has a pretty good range of gears. From 40 gear inch to 62 gear inch. You can put a replaceable derailleur hanger on this guy too. So it’s pretty unique, something you don’t really see anywhere else.
BIKERUMOR: … What?! Dude! Who is making that?
RICK: Porcelain Rocket. There are two others of these for the other bikes. I might save one for NAHBS. Yeah. Those [bikes] are going to be called the “Bushmasters” because they are kind of a camp bike for the bush… a paratrooping bike, sorta. Four in the initial batch then maybe make it a model- a plus-size touring or camping bike.
BIKERUMOR: Oh, hello honey! What is this?!
RICK: I built it for a surf shop for the display. If they sell it they sell it. Otherwise I’ll keep it for NAHBS, I’ve always wanted a trick 24in. I build a batch of ten 24in bikes about ten years ago.
BIKERUMOR: What are these dropouts. Are they yours?
RICK: Yeah, Front and rear. The rear ones are my pump track dropouts. I call them the Gophers. This bike has two right dropouts because the real Gophers have a disc brake on the left side. I can get some if you want to see them. The blanks are water jet cut.
BIKERUMOR: I guess there is a good waterjet cutter around here. A couple builders are using it.
RICK: Yeah, there is a lot of industry around. In Santa Cruz… a little bit, but definitely over the hill in the whole San Jose and Silicon Valley. You can do anything you want.
BIKERUMOR: I like the canti stud. They are really cubic. What a toy, huh? Have you screwed around on it yet?
RICK: No, I don’t want to get it dirty yet, unfortunately.
BIKERUMOR: A $2,700 trick bike… no big deal.