1: How it all came to be
First, a note from Scot Nicol, who founded Ibis in 1981. This note was first written on the occasion of our 30th birthday, and we've updated it to bring it more up to date.
It’s a little overwhelming to think that Ibis has been around for 38 years. Not in a bad way overwhelming, either. More like a wow, a lot of fun stuff has happened in the last 38 years overwhelming.
I'm a lucky guy to have been at the right place at the right time and accidentally started a bike company. To this day, I can’t imagine doing anything else, and I can’t imagine quitting or retiring.
Let’s do a features and benefits analysis:
That last one is key and I owe it to the people who I get to work with. The Ibis crew is fantastic. They’re fun, energetic, focused and smart. And I’m honored to get to work with them.
Also to all the people I’ve worked with over the years, and all the friends I’ve made in the bike industry, all over the world (even you, Canada), thanks.
Over the past few weeks I’ve been preparing the stories for our birthday. This has involved going through boxes and boxes of old photos, slides, magazines, newspaper clippings, thermal paper faxes(!), and plain old hand written notes.
Over to the right, you’ll see links to a few stories that are highlights of the early years, or more likely, stories that I've actually managed to remember.
Ibis is a worldwide community. No matter how many people I mention or thank in this note or these upcoming stories, not everyone will be remembered here. So here’s my mea culpa ahead of time, sorry I didn’t mention you. It reminds me of one of those Oscar acceptance speeches where the honoree tries to thank everyone, but inevitably forgets someone real important. Or in my case forgets a lot of people who are real important.
So this one goes out to anyone who has remotely had anything to do with Ibis, whether you’ve worked there, written about us, bought one of our bikes, wanted one of our bikes, dissed us on a forum or were just the neighbor next door who told us to turn the music down: THANK YOU.
We’re chronicling Ibis history in a somewhat orderly fashion, and the name of this first installment is “How it all Came to Be”. From a super early age, I was a bike fanatic. Growing up, we were fabulously wealthy, as you’ll see in this video. We had enough money to afford an 8mm camera. I recently got my family home movies digitized and stumbled upon the first moments of true freedom I ever tasted: my first bike ride.
The date? Somewhere around 1960, judging from the cars in the video.
For me, and I’m sure a lot of people, bikes represent your first taste of freedom. They still represent that for me. I love my job, but the second I get on a bike, any problems or challenges fade into the background. I often think that if more people rode bikes more often, our world would be a much better place. Bikes have made my world a better place. I’m thinking that if you’ve persevered reading this drivel to here, you also share a love for riding. Either that or it’s raining outside so you’re killing time until you ride.
So this is how it all came to be. A love for riding bikes. I’m sure a lot of you reading this have similar stories, whether you started riding as a kid or more recently.
Thanks for reading, thanks for being a part of Ibis, and we now return you to our previously scheduled program.
THE EVENTS THAT LED UP TO THE FOUNDING OF IBIS
Fire up the way back machine and transport yourself back to memories of 1980. If your weren’t born yet, then ask your parents what it was like.
Scot Nicol was a young hippie living on the coast up in Mendocino County (California), doing what hippies in 1980 did up in Mendocino (we’ll let your imagination figure out what that means). Actually, here’s a picture of him harvesting some broccoli:
Besides garden, one of the things they did back then was read magazines, hippie magazines. One of them was called CoEvolution Quarterly.
In the Spring 1978 issue, an article appeared about this new “Clunker Bike” movement that was happening in various places, among them, Marin County and Crested Butte Colorado.
Turns out that Scot had been riding these ‘paper boy’ bikes since since 1965, when he “acquired one” on his paper route one day. We use ‘acquired’ in quotes because he traded it to a neighbor for his mom’s bike, without her permission (he later paid her back with interest with a fully custom Ibis made for her 5’1” frame). By 1976, he’d converted his 1947 Excelsior to a geared bike with cantilever brakes (like many others had during the 70’s) and rode it in the dirt whenever he could.
Anyway this “CoEv” article peeked Scot’s interest, so he got in contact with the guys talked about in the article: Joe Breeze, Gary Fisher and Charlie Kelly among others. They were all headed to Crested Butte Colorado shortly after he contacted them, so Scot offered to drive them out (being hippies as well, many of these Marin guys didn’t have cars). One of Scot’s hitchhikers was Charlie Cunningham, complete with crazy aluminum framed drop bar mountain bike, his down jacket with duct tape covering all the holes and his “panacea pancake” as Scot and Steve Potts dubbed Charlie’s whole grain gut bomb.
Scot made friends with all the guys on the trip, and ended up spending the Winter in Marin, living with Steve Potts (who was still a sheetmetal worker at the time) and working as an apprentice framebuilder with both Joe Breeze and Charlie Cunningham. Joe and Charlie went about things very differently and gave Scot a good introduction to the craft. Scot ended up with Breezer number thirteen, which he still has and hopes to restore one day.
The next Spring, Scot started building his own frames up in Mendocino, as we mentioned, without a plan or without money...