14: Sebastopol Days Part 2

In 1988 when we decided that we were soon going to rule the entire bicycle universe, we realized that we’d need to vacate our small garage in an apple orchard, and move into some shiny new megafactory with belching smokestacks and a waterway nearby for depositing our industrial effluvia.

We didn’t get the waterway or smokestacks, but we got a water tower, a rocket launching range and a whole bunch of big old industrial machines.

As mentioned in the Helfrich section, we went out to Massachusetts to buy a bunch of tools and have them shipped across the United States of America via the transcontinental railroad. The General Electric Corporation was closing down a plant that manufactured huge steam turbines for power plants. Their slogan then was “We bring good things to life”, and since our life revolved around big heavy machinery, we were for once in agreement with G.E.

Ron Andrews once again helped us out with our shopping spree, here are a few shots of the auction. Most of these are massive machines that were far beyond our needs (duh, we’re making bicycle frames). But there were plenty of smaller machines everywhere, sort of like pilot fish around sharks, not really sure what they do but the two coexist well.

The auction lasted for five days. It was a biggie. As you can see from these weirdly brown photos, most of the stuff was way too big for us. We bought a ton of equipment, but one deal we recall fondly was a massive 4’ x 8’ steel surface plate with a cast iron stand that we purchased for $10. It was one of those moments when the auctioneer noticed people getting a little complacent (probably just after lunch), and he wanted to shake things up a bit. He was looking for an opening bid (which should have been $500 or $1000), none was forthcoming so Scot shouted out $10 and the auctioneer immediately said SOLD! Everyone was a bit shocked by this, and soon were bidding with more panache on about 20 more steel and granite surface plates. We bought a few more too, the small ones are good for serving sushi, the medium sized ones make nice end tables.

As described previously, we had Gary load the container in Boston, and had it shipped across the country on the railroad. Our new shop actually had a loading dock, so we could unload the container once it finally made it up to Sebastopol.

He also had a beautiful J & L lathe in his basement in Boston, we bought that from him and moved it over with the rest of the Generous Electric purchases:

And here it is on the other coast:

We started moving the rest of the tools in to what we thought was a big empty shop.


Lunch was usually a social affair.

Sometimes we ate at our desks, or just standing up. Being California, we have a ton of Mexican restaurants. We made daily runs to get ‘food logs’.

Supposedly May is national bike month. Since every day is bike day and every month is bike month at Ibis, we decided to celebrate May being national barbeque month instead. Frequent BBQ revelry happened.

This also assured frequent visits to our beloved art project, the bathroom. The bathroom was well documented on our prior post.


Oh, and when we weren’t launching rockets or doing our interior decorating on the bathroom or eating, we made things. Lots of things. Here are a couple glimpses of the shop.

You can also see a few more in our Tandem story.

We mostly made our own fixtures.

And here’s the BowTi fixture, one of our favorites:

We’re going to have an entire post dedicated to the machine tools and the bike building process soon.

There were dogs in the shop, and French people came over to write about us. We had our own neon too (click to see a larger version).

Here’s that same neon, in our new shop in Santa Cruz, twenty something years later.

Next installment, we’ll actually talk about bikes a wee little bit.

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