A few weeks ago, the Bicycle Quarterly editors went to Paul Camp – a get-together for the media at Paul Components, the famous maker of brakes and other parts. The idea was simple: Instead of attending a big trade show, why not get the media together, bring them to Paul in Chico, CA, show them the company, and ride bikes?
Even better, Paul partnered with eleven custom builders, who built mountain and monstercross bikes for us media types to ride. Of course, they were outfitted with Paul’s latest components in this year’s blue anodized color, as well as some parts from co-sponsor White Industries.
Coming from rainy Seattle, it was wonderful to be in warm and sunny California. Before the official program started, there was just enough time to look around Paul’s small factory and admire his neat Dune Buggy. Did I mention that Paul Components is in California?
First, each of us grabbed the bike that we were to ride for the three days of the Camp. Natsuko and I both ended up on beautiful bikes built by local builder (and fellow randonneur) Steve Rex. We couldn’t have made a better choice!
And then we headed out. After traversing the quiet streets of Chico, we rode into the foothills of the Sierra Nevada. This is where we got to play on “our” new custom bikes for two days in a row. It couldn’t have been better!
Paul led the way, and he really does know how to ride. No wonder his components have such a great reputation – they are tested out here in the real world!
It was neat to do a little mountain biking, so different from the riding we usually do in the Cascades: Here we rode at a social pace until reaching a difficult spot, where we each tried to “clear” it the best we could. It was fun!
Paul’s employees had hauled a wonderful picnic to the end of the trail, where we sat by the river and enjoyed our lunch. It was the perfect time of year in Chico – everything was lush from the winter rains, the temperature was warm and pleasant, but the summer heat had not yet arrived.
On the way back into town, we stopped to take in the view of a deep canyon. We talked about bikes and riding. We caught up with old acquaintances and made new friends. It was everything a get-together should be, and everything the big trade shows aren’t.
That night, we went to the Sierra Nevada Brewery for a beer tasting, brewery tour and dinner. Meanwhile, our bikes were displayed to the public in the brewery. It was a great setting for a bike show.
After all that fun, the best part was still to come – Paul took us on a tour of his factory. It’s amazing – at one end, bars and rods of aluminum and steel go in, at the other end, finished parts come out. Almost everything is CNC-machined in-house. We saw fixtures and tools, polishing drums and a plethora of other machines. Paul’s components truly are made in Chico from start to finish. As so often, the art lies in optimizing the processes you have at your disposal, and Paul has decades of experience with that.
After an excellent lunch under the trees in Paul’s yard, each builder talked about their bikes, their history and their philosophy. Here is Adam Sklar explaining how the curved top tube became his signature design. It was most interesting to meet the builders in such a leisurely setting, where we could ask questions and continue our discussions until it was time to head back to the airport.
A quick group photo, and then we packed our bags, hopped into a huge limo Paul had rented for us, and went back to Sacramento. Thanks to all who made Paul Camp such a fun event (left to right): Cameron Falconer, Rick Hunter, Robert Ives (Blue Collar Bikes), Steve Rex, Alec White (White Industries), Adam Sklar (mostly hidden), Paul Price (Paul Components), Sean Burns (Oddity Cycles, partly hidden), Curt Inglis (Retrotec), John Caletti, Jeremy Sycip, Chris McGovern.
Paul Camp was three days filled with fun, and we learned a lot about Paul and CNC-machining components. You’ll read more about his company and the Steve Rex bikes we rode in a future Bicycle Quarterly. For now, we just cherish our great memories!